Friday, February 11, 2005

Human: Adaptability

For the last post of my 'Human' series, I'm going to write about the attribute that has helped make the human race the most successful species on the planet. Our adaptability.

As I mentioned in my introductory post, it is very easy to come up with examples of animals that can run faster, carry more weight, etc. But try thinking of an animal that can operate in the variety of ways that we can. That's much more difficult.

If you think about it for a moment, the range of relatively basic activities that we can do is quite astounding. Things we learn at a young age and never forget. We can walk; run; swim both underwater and on the surface; climb trees and mountains; jump; carry relatively large loads and throw things accurately.

With the possible exception of walking (which is the most basic and earliest learnt action of them all), we are by no means the best species at any of these activities. However, we are the only animal on this planet that can successfully do all of them. A global Jack-of-all-trades, if you like.

Way back in the mists of time, the fact that we could interact with so much of the world (apart from the deep sea and the highest peaks we could get pretty much everywhere) meant that we learnt more about how to use it to our advantage. As time went on and intelligence and communication skills began to develop, the human race became ever more successful across the whole world.

We put our adaptability to other uses as well. We can readily change the way we live to suit our environment, be it the cold of Antarctica, the heat of the Sahara or the humidity of the Amazon.

The ability to amend our behaviour to suit whatever situation we find ourselves in has allowed us to gain a level of understanding of (and control over) the Earth that is way beyond that of any other species. It has given us our position at the very top of the pecking order and we have been taking advantage of it ever since.

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