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Evolution/macroevolution of great apes again?

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Question
if earth was not overcrowded with people or any other species, and the environment was unaffected by pollution and deforestation, could the great apes, again, spawn an evolutionary descendant of greater fitness, either by the same mechanisms of h. sapien or others?  could a near-human homo species arise naturally?

Answer
Dear Ben,

Well, that's a question that no one can honestly answer.  Evolution is driven by natural selection, which is not random.  But evolutionary biologists are coming to understand that random events (mutations; genetic drift/neutral evolution) also have played a huge role in generating the biodiversity we know today.  These random events undoubtedly contributed to the evolution of Homo sapiens and other great apes.

So for any species to arise like H. sapiens *again*, there would have to be not only selective pressure to act upon existing phenotypes and drive the species in that direction, but also there would have to be the "right" set of random events (mutations and neutral evolution) that contributed to the genesis of the great apes.

I know that's a non-answer, but that's because there really is no way to know whether it could happen again.  Statistically, yes.  It could.  But would it?  There's almost no way to calculate the odds.

Hope that helps at least with some food for thought.

Happy New Year!

Dana

Evolution

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Dana Krempels

Expertise

I can answer questions about evolutionary mechanisms and theory, including genetic drift, mutation, natural selection, etc. I also can clear up misconceptions about evolution as it's sometimes talked about by those not well-versed in the subject (e.g., some politicians and many religious fundamentalists).

Experience

I have a Ph.D. in Biology, and presently teach Evolution and Biodiversity, Genetics, Botany, and Zoology at the University of Miami.

Organizations
House Rabbit Society Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society

Publications
Exotic DVM Magazine (veterinary journal)

Education/Credentials
B.S. in Biology B.A. in English Ph.D. in Biology

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