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Nature, culture and human occupation of Planet Earth
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  • Alessandro Mondanaro,
  • Marina Melchionna,
  • Mirko Di Febbraro,
  • Silvia Castiglione,
  • Philip B. Holden,
  • Neil R. Edwards,
  • Francesco Carotenuto,
  • Luigi Maiorano,
  • Maria Modafferi,
  • Carmela Serio,
  • Jose Alexandre Diniz-Filho,
  • Thiago Rangel,
  • Lorenzo Rook,
  • Paul O'Higgins,
  • Penny Spikins,
  • Antonio Profico,
  • Pasquale Raia
Alessandro Mondanaro
Università degli Studi di Firenze
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Marina Melchionna
Universita degli Studi di Napoli Federico II
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Mirko Di Febbraro
Universita degli Studi del Molise
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Silvia Castiglione
Universita degli Studi di Napoli Federico II
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Philip B. Holden
The Open University
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Neil R. Edwards
The Open University
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Francesco Carotenuto
Universita degli Studi di Napoli Federico II
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Luigi Maiorano
University of Rome
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Maria Modafferi
University of Naples Federico II
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Carmela Serio
Liverpool John Moores University
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Jose Alexandre Diniz-Filho
Universidade Federal de Goias
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Thiago Rangel
Universidade Federal de Goiás
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Lorenzo Rook
Università degli Studi di Firenze
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Paul O'Higgins
University of York
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Penny Spikins
University of York
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Antonio Profico
University of York
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Pasquale Raia
Universita degli Studi di Napoli Federico II
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Abstract

Homo sapiens is possibly the most ecologically plastic animal species ever, capable to overcome climatic variability beyond its physiological limits by means of culture. This adaptability has a strong cultural component which required the development both new technologies and major social changes sometimes in our distant past1,2. Highly contentious archaeological evidence suggests these innovations may have predated the emergence of our own species3. Here we studied climate niche width evolution in Homo, using fine-detailed palaeoclimatic data while controlling for phylogenetic effects. Our results point to sudden widening of the climatic niches exploited by Homo starting with the emergence of H. heidelbergensis. From the Middle Pleistocene, Homo ceased to be confined to physiologically suitable regions, despite progressive harshening of global climatic conditions. These results suggest cultural modernity, and its associated technological advancements, including habitual use of fire and clothing, appeared before the emergence of our own species.