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Climate and Human Evolution

Volcano erupting smoke and ash with hominin footprints in the foreground

Explore how environment change influenced evolution, and how dramatic climate instability over the past 6 million years may have shaped human adaptations.

Early human faces and environments

Climate Effects on Human Evolution

The idea of variability selection, developed by Smithsonian researcher Dr. Rick Potts, seeks to explain how the dynamic surroundings of human ancestors shaped their ability – and ours – to adjust to a changing world.

Image of Skull, front view

Survival of the Adaptable

How did humans become so adaptable, capable of thriving across the globe? Chapter 3 of the book What Does It Mean To Be Human? explores the survival story of human origins.

Timeline thumbnail

Human Evolution Timeline Interactive

Explore the evidence for human evolution in this interactive timeline - climate change, species, and milestones in becoming human.

Zoom in using the magnifier on the bottom for a closer look!

Dr. Rick Potts talks about his research on early human adaptability to climate change in Africa and China.