The Rise of Homo avimimus: How birds made us human

Authors: Rob Fergus*, Rowan University
Topics: Animal Geographies, Human-Environment Geography, Cultural Ecology
Keywords: Animal geography, birds, human-bird interactions, coevolution
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Gold, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Majestic Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Contemporary animal geographers have studied various ways humans have used animals in forming both individual and group identities, but there is still much to discover about how birds and other animals have influenced the development of human bodies and cultures. In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, aviation pioneers including Otto Lilienthal, Octave Chanute, and the Wright brothers observed and mimicked birds to develop the principles of powered flight. More recently, Japanese engineer Eiji Nakatsu modeled the nose of the Shinkansen bullet train after a kingfisher beak. This paper presents additional examples of human mimicry or birds in modern technological innovations, and hypothesizes about the time depth of human bird-mimicry in human history and pre-history. It is proposed that human biological and cultural evolution was intricately tied to our ancestor’s relationships with birds, and that much of what we consider to be human achievements were inspired by birds, which our ancestors learned to closely observe and mimic. There is data supporting bird connections to the rise of frugivory, primate color vision, bipedality, scavenging, fishing, mollusk harvesting, rafting, sewing, weaving, music, dancing, ceramics, arboriculture, ocean voyaging, and writing. The current evidence supporting this hypothesis warrants more extensive research into the role of birds in human evolution and cultural development.

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