How We Came to Our Senses: Ecology, Evolution, and the Future of Human Sensation

Sunday, February 19, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 210 (Hynes Convention Center)
Primate senses are a topic of enduring fascination in science, in part because many of the traits that differentiate primates are based on sensory structures that inform how we perceive and interact with our surroundings. New findings suggest that primate senses are often “tuned” to the idiosyncrasies of a sensory landscape, which raises questions about the specific environments that gave rise to our own senses. A hallmark of human evolution is our ability to modify our surroundings and the corresponding jumble of sensory inputs. Mounting evidence indicates that our senses are surprisingly variable across different human populations. This session explores the evolution of taste, olfaction, and vision in primates, with special consideration to the sensory landscapes that shaped us and that we ourselves have created. The speakers’ discussion examines the unintended consequences of modern and emerging sensory landscapes, both for the human experience and for other primates.

Nathaniel J. Dominy, Dartmouth College
Amanda Melin, University of Calgary
Paul Breslin, Rutgers University
Evolutionary Perspectives on Food and Human Taste
Kara C. Hoover, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Evolutionary Mismatches Between the Olfactory Past and Present