Reel Smart Academic Roundtable: The Underdog Ancestor

Roundtable In this Reel Smart Academic pitch, the La Trobe research team share their exploration into what our earliest ancestors looked like and how they evolved different ways to survive.

La Trobe University and AIDC present the Reel Smart Academic Roundtables which sees academics from La Trobe University pitch up-to-the-minute original research to producers at AIDC with the aim of triggering the development of new factual series or one-off documentary projects.

Recent discoveries at Drimolen Cave, South Africa have shed light on a crucial moment in our evolutionary history. One, the skull of a 2-year-old child Homo erectus – our direct ancestor, shows that this species evolved 200,000 years earlier than previously thought. The second is a nearly complete skull belonging to a strange cousin species of human called Paranthropus robustus. In addition to competition between groups, these different types of humans were fighting to adapt to a drastic climactic shift that turned wetlands into savannah and depleted food resources. Two-million-years ago, our ancestor was not winning this fight as our strange cousin outcompeted us. In the long run, the adaptions that set him on the course to becoming us, served him well. He went on to become the most successful human species while our cousin was doomed to extinction. What can this tell us about our own fight to adapt to climate change? Will the pathway we started on two-million-years ago serve us well? Do we need to adapt again to avoid extinction like those before us? Come on a journey to see what our earliest ancestors looked like and how they evolved different ways to survive.

Research Team:
Professor Andy I.R. Herries: Director of the Drimolen Cave Research Project & Dr Angeline Leece: Lead Hominin Researcher and Co-Site Director of the Drimolen Cave Research Project.

The Reel Smart Academic Roundtables are limited in capacity. Interested delegates are encouraged to reserve their spot via AIDC’s online event platform early to avoid disappointment.