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along time ago a group Australopithecus somehow manged to get washed ashore on let's say the Antarctic peninsula or at least an island near Antarctica now inhabiting mainland Antarctica and evolving human level intelligence. the question i want to know is what adaptations would a hominid need to survive in mainland Antarctica?

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    $\begingroup$ This depends a lot on what their food source and technological level is, there is is not much to make tools out of on Antarctica. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 16 '20 at 4:27
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Digestive system

Antarctica does not support much of vegetation. So your diet would be "protein with lots of fat" alternating with "fat with some protein". Your hominid would badly need to evolve a digestive system that is better at handling a diet like this.

It would essentially become a hypercarnivore. Probably with teeth and jaws to match.

Cold resistance

Losing your extremities to frost bite sucks. Fingers, toes, nose, ears and face would need to adapt. Thicker and blunter shapes. More blubber under the skin. More hair.

I think a layer of extra fat under the skin and a layer of short and dense hair on it would be reasonable. Longer hairs to keep off wind would also be nice since it would reduce need to rely on clothes.

Activity cycles

Part of the year the day is very long and night short. Part of the year the day is short and the night very long. You'd want to sleep very little part of the year and sleep very much the other part. You'd also want to eat very much and very little depending on season.

And the really weird part is that if we look at polar bears, the Arctic hypercarnivore, the time they hunt is actually winter because that is when there is sea ice and their prey is not off at sea swimming around faster than a bear or hominid can match. So the activity cycles would not match the amount of daylight.

So I guess what you'd want would be adaptable activity cycles with ability to stay awake when you want and to sleep for a long times when you do not. Better night vision would be nice as well. Maybe better sense of smell to find prey in the dark.

A lots of body fat to balance the variations in food supply and the need to survive without food. Hominids would probably have the advantage in ability to store food though.

And tool making would give superior adaptability. You could hunt in the winter and fish during the summer. And since you can use thrown weapons or slings to hunt birds and can dig to access fish under the sea ice, you'd eventually get ability to do both off-season to some extent and stabilize food supply.

Size

Larger animals retain heat better so they'd simply increase in size. This would be further boosted by added fat and fur. And as mentioned the effect would be amplified for extremities being blunter and more massive.

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  • $\begingroup$ so for lack of a better term they would resemble yetis. that honestly works seeing as yetis do exist in my story $\endgroup$
    – icewar1908
    Apr 17 '20 at 19:06
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The largest land animals in Antarctica are penguins and seals.

If a hominid needs to survive on its own there, it has to adapt like they did, thus:

  • develop fat layers for insulation
  • adapt to an aquatic life style for gathering food
  • use dry land only for resting and mating

As you see all of the above require living in proximity to the sea, since it's the only place where one can find food. Mainland is just snow, ice and rocks. No way to survive on them.

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The main adaption they would need is intelligence. If this Hominid species evolved into something as intelligent as Homo sapiens then they would be able to survive on the coast of Antarctica in much the same way as the Inuit survive in the far north of Greenland and Canada.

Fish, penguins, seals and sea bird eggs would provide sufficient nutrition and habitation could be provided in corbel built rock shelters such as those seen in Skellig-michael in Eire. This could be supplemented with igloos on the sea ice during hunting expeditions.

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure about this. Antarctica is the only continent that has never supported a permanent human population. Modern humans have settled just about every other corner of the globe, except this one. If intelligence was all that was needed, I'd expect people to have already settled there, but no one ever has. $\endgroup$ Apr 16 '20 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ Mauritius wasn't settled until 1598, but only because of it's remoteness not because of its habitability. Antarctica is also remote because the prevailing currents and winds flow around the continent so there is no easy way to get to it without powered sea craft. But we are assuming the hominid has arrived there and that assumption is what makes all the difference. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Apr 16 '20 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ There is a vast difference between Antarctica and Greenland and Arctic Canada. Among other things, during the summer the climate is much milder, allowing vegetation growth which supports large mammal populations. The geography also allows rivers and lakes with fish, providing another food source. While there are parts of the north similar to Antarctica, there's a reason no one lives there. $\endgroup$ Apr 16 '20 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ Your right there's a reason no one used to live there, no one could get there. There are plenty of fish, krill and whales in Antarctic waters and the coast although very cold does not get as cold as the interior $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Apr 16 '20 at 18:30

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