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SPOTLIGHT

1. SCIENCE:

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most adaptive species of them all?

In the 5 million years since early hominids first emerged from east Africa's Rift Valley, the Earth's climate has grown increasingly erratic: Over cycles lasting hundreds of thousands of years, arid regions of central Africa were overrun by forests, forests gave way to grasslands and contiguous landscapes were fractured by deep lakes. It was within the context of this swiftly changing landscape that humans evolved their sizable brains and capacity for adaptive behavior, said Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. In such a world, he said, the ability to think creatively, to imagine novel solutions to survival threats, proved to be a major asset.

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