American Association for the Advancement of Science
To investigate the role of vegetation and ecosystem diversity on hominin adaptation and migration, we identify past human habitat preferences over time using a transient 3-million-year earth system-biome model simulation and an extensive hominin fossil and archaeological database. Our analysis shows that early African hominins predominantly lived in open environments such as grassland and dry shrubland. Migrating into Eurasia, hominins adapted to a broader range of biomes over time. By linking the location and age of hominin sites with corresponding simulated regional biomes, we also find that our ancestors actively selected for spatially diverse environments. The quantitative results lead to a new diversity hypothesis: Homo species, in particular Homo sapiens, were specially equipped to adapt to landscape mosaics.