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Gunter Bechly: Farewell, says the apeman

Darwinian Gradualism

Australopithecus africanus skull, by José Braga; Didier Descouens [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Based on the recent “Lucy” type find in Africa, he writes,

A few days ago a sensational new paleontological discovery made headlines around the globe. After 15 years of searching, and the recovery of 12,600 fossils including 230 hominin remains (Leakey Foundation 2019), finally a rather complete skull has been found and described for Australopithecus anamensis, which is the oldest and most primitive representative of the australopithecines, living 4.2-3.9 million years ago. It was generally considered to be the direct ancestor of Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, that lived in the same region 3.8-2.9 million years ago. The former species was previously known only by some fragments. Now we can finally give it a face. Actually, this face turns out to be very much ape-like, with a small chimp-sized braincase and a protruding jaw, but that is not the really interesting thing about this discovery. I will come back to that in a moment…

Because the new skull showed for the first time what the frontal bone of A. anamensis looked like, and how it differed from that of A. afarensis, scientists could finally determine the specific affinities of an isolated frontal bone (known as the “Belohdelie frontal”) that was discovered in 1981, also in the Afar region of Ethiopia (Asfaw 1987). It turned out to belong to A. afarensis, even though it is reliably dated to 3.9 million years, thus 100,000 years older than the new skull of A. anamensis. This implies that both species did overlap for a considerable period. Consequently, A. anamensis cannot have just transformed and dissolved into A. afarensis.

Such anagenetic evolution by gradual species-to-species transitions (without branching events) is actually predicted by Darwin’s theory. Therefore, we should expect to find some fossil evidence for this crucial process. But such evidence turned out to be elusive (see below), and the case of the supposed transition from A. anamensis to A. afarensis was “one of the strongest cases for anagenesis in the fossil record” (Melillo quoted in Marshall 2019, Kimble et al. 2006, Haile-Selassie 2010). This strongest case has now evaporated, and it was not only the strongest case but also the last case, as I will explain in a moment.

Gunter Bechly, “Apeman Waves Goodbye to Darwinian Gradualism” at Evolution News and Science Today:

Why wave goodbye? Because if this skull is a guide, the transition from not-really-Lucy to a-bit-like-Lucy to almost-Lucy to Hi, Lucy!! never really happened.

Bechly is that paleontologist who got disappeared from Wikipedia for doubting Darwin. That tells you how much use either Darwinism or Wikipedia is if you need to know what is happeing.

See also: Rare hominin skull upsets tidy origins theory

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