An Internet WebQuest

Have you ever visited the primate house at a local zoo or watched a television program about primates? Many people are amused at the antics of gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, and lemurs as they eat, play, and explore. Did you know that humans are primates, too? All primates have opposable thumbs, a relatively large brain, good binocular vision, and flexible joints. The earliest primates were prosimians, a group that includes present-day lemurs. Humanlike primates were called anthropoids. Present-day anthropoids include the monkeys and the hominids—apes and humans. Although humans, gorillas, and chimpanzees are close cousins genetically, humans did not evolve from the great apes. Instead, humans and apes probably evolved from a common ancestor between 8 and 5 million years ago. These two different groups formed the hominids – primates that can walk upright on two legs. Whereas the apes continued to evolve into the gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gibbons of today, humans followed a different path. What hominids were the ancestors of present-day humans? How long ago did human ancestors split off from the rest of the hominids? Where did humans first evolve? Why is there just one species of humans alive today? These are some of the questions you will explore in this WebQuest on hominid fossils.

Your job in this WebQuest is to learn all about the evolution of humans. You will learn about the earliest hominids that may be part of the evolution of humans, and about the fossils that have been found which support this idea. You will look at photographs of these fossils and read about their similarities and differences. You will find out how scientists have pieced together the story of human evolution, and discover that the story is far from complete. You will fill in a table that lists which hominids play a part in human evolution. Finally, you will answer a few questions about hominid fossils to demonstrate what you have learned in your Internet research.