Climate change is actually beneficial for human evolution as it fosters better adaptation capabilities in us and forces us to move to new areas and work together, a new study has suggested.
Researchers have revealed that far from thwarting our development, periods when the earth is either cooling or warming up have actually been greatly advantageous.
Experts from the National History Museum and Cambridge University identified five key time periods when shifts in global climate resulted in accelerated social and genetic evolution, the Daily Mail reported.
The first began around two million years ago when a prolonged dry period caused forests to disappear leading to the emergence of Homo erectus – an early human adapted to running and hunting on the grassy plains.
The next major development came during the ice age, which began 450,000 years ago during which scientists believe human beings were divided into three separate groups.
European humans evolved into Neanderthals while Asian humans evolved into Denisovans.
Those remaining on the African subcontinent evolved into modern human beings but this group had to wait until around 60,000 years ago when a prolonged warm spell allowed them to spread north.
Then a sustained cold period between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago caused further changes as the freezing temperatures caused a 330ft drop in sea levels allowing humans to cross the Bering land bridge into North America.
Wild fluctuations in climate between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago prompted another period of change by forcing humans to develop agricultural techniques, which enabled them to stabilise food supplies.
“Climate change has been a major player in our evolution,” Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum and author of The Origin of Our Species told the Sunday Times.
“It created the conditions that encouraged our early ancestors to come down from the trees and later to spread out of Africa and across the globe. It made us what we are today,” he added.