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The most complete early fossil find for the genus is called , who lived about 1.5 mya. He was a child or juvenile, and would have stood more than 1.6 meters tall as an adult, about as tall as an average woman today (earlier estimates that he would have been more than 1.8 meters tall (six feet) in adulthood appear overstated today). He is the ultimate find so far, and changes from his ancestral species were substantial. His teeth shrank the most between species in the entire line from the chimp/human split, by about 20%, his jaw shrank as well, and perhaps most importantly, his guts shrank, as his rib cage is nearly modern in being more barrel-shaped than flaring at the bottom. This was also the most dramatic rib cage change in the human line. His hips became narrower and he no longer had the shoulder, arm, and hand adaptations needed for sleeping in trees; he was fully adapted for living on the ground. Here are skeleton comparisons between gorillas, chimpanzees, , and today's humans. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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Land colonization was perhaps the Devonian’s most interesting event. The adaptations invented by aquatic life to survive in terrestrial environments were many and varied. Most importantly, the organism would no longer be surrounded by water and had to manage . Nutrient acquisition and reproductive practices would have to change, and the protection that water provided from was gone; plants and animals devised methods to protect themselves from the Sun’s radiation. Also, moving on land and in the air became major bioengineering projects for animals. Breathing air instead of water presented challenges. The pioneers who left water led both aquatic and terrestrial existences. Amphibians had both , and arthropods, whose exoskeletons readily solved the desiccation and structural support problems, evolved to replace their gills, which were probably book gills.

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While oxygen level changes of the model show early fluctuations that the model does not, both models agree on a huge rise in oxygen levels in the late Devonian and Carboniferous, in tandem with collapsing carbon dioxide levels. There is also virtually universal agreement that that situation is due to rainforest development. Rainforests dominated the Carboniferous Period. If the Devonian could be considered terrestrial life’s , then the Carboniferous was its . In the Devonian, plants developed vascular systems, photosynthetic foliage, seeds, roots, and bark, and true forests first appeared. Those basics remain unchanged to this day, but in the Carboniferous there was great diversification within those body plans, and Carboniferous plants formed the foundation for the first complex land-based ecosystems. Ever since the episodes, there has , and the that have prominently shaped Earth’s eon of complex life probably always began with ice sheets at the South Pole, and the current ice age arguably is the only partial exception, but today’s cold period really began about 35 mya, .

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To my knowledge, nobody has ever invoked a climate change hypothesis for the mass extinction of South American mammals when the land bridge formed that , even though the formation of that land bridge probably triggered the current ice age and the North American invasions of South America. Most South American mammal species quickly went extinct when that had survived many millions of years of intercontinental invasions. It was a purely Darwinian event in which animals with greater carrying capacities prevailed. There was no big picture awareness of events by the invaders or invaded, just as there had never been during life’s history on Earth. They all just tried to survive, and previously isolated South American mammals quickly lost the game. The survivors were able to live in niches that no North American animals did, such as .

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Perhaps the most damaging deficiency in FE efforts, after self-serving orientation, was that the participants and their supporters were scientifically illiterate and easily led astray by the latest spectacle. Scientific literacy can help prevent most such distractions. While writing this essay, I was not only bombarded with news of the latest FE and alternative energy aspirants' antics, but I had to continually field queries regarding whether Peak Oil and Global Warming were conspiratorial elite hoaxes (or figments of the hyperactive imaginations of environmentalists and other activists), for two examples that readily come to mind. Digesting this essay's material should have those questions answered as mere side-effects. Far from being a hoax or imaginary, Peak Oil was and , and it is all downhill from there, and conventional oil will be almost entirely depleted in my lifetime. , although both were heavily promoted in the USA in 2014. In every paleoclimate study that I have seen, so-called greenhouse gases have always been considered the primary determinant of Earth's surface temperature (after the Sun), and carbon dioxide is chief among them. The radiation-trapping properties of carbon dioxide are not controversial in the slightest among scientists, and after the Sun's influence (which is exceedingly stable), declining carbon dioxide levels are considered to be the conditions that have dominated Earth for the past 35 million years. Humanity's increasing the atmosphere's carbon dioxide content is influencing the cause of Icehouse Earth, and , and are merely proximate causes. Increasing carbon dioxide can turn the global climate from an to a Greenhouse Earth, and the last time that happened, Earth had its . But have purposefully confused the issues, and a scientifically illiterate public and have played along, partly because believing the disinformation seems to relieve us all of any responsibility for our actions. Although scientific literacy can help people become immune to the disinformation and confusion arising from many corners, and reading this essay's first half can help people develop their own defense from such distractions, my goals for this essay's first half are far greater than that.

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The invasion of North America from Asia (with a little migration from North America to Asia), while important, was not as dramatic as what happened in Africa a few million years later. About 24 mya, Africa and the attached Arabian Peninsula began colliding with Eurasia. The once-vast Tethys Ocean had finally been reduced to a strait between the continents, and one of Earth’s most dramatic mammalian migrations began. By about 18 mya, proboscidean had migrated from Africa and they reached North America by 16.5 mya. An left Africa but stayed in Asia. As with the North American interchange with Asia, however, the greater change came the other way. Rodents, deer, cattle, antelope, pigs, rhinos, giraffes, dogs (including the ), and cats came over, along with small insectivores and shrews. Most of the iconic large fauna of today’s African plains originated from elsewhere, particularly Asia. Asian animals invaded and dominated Europe and Africa, and became abundant in North America. In general, Asia had more diverse biomes and was the largest continent, so it developed the most competitive animals. That principle, which Darwin remarked on, became very evident when the British invaded Australia in the 18th century: imports such as rabbits and foxes quickly prevailed, and . The most important Miocene development for humans was African primate development, but that is a subject for a later chapter.