Below are some media clippings on the recent hominin skull find in Ethiopia. Meanwhile, a reader writes to say that the significance of the story—not always made clear—is this: The idea that an early hominin A. anamensis evolved tidily into a newer hominin A. afarensis (Lucy) was one of the few examples of such a clear Darwinian transition available. But now it turns out, the 3.8 mya skull anamensis in the news is from 100,000 years after fossils of A. afarensis, which means that this hominin was a contemporary as well as an ancestor. Another “textbook example” of Darwinism scrubbed.
The early hominin evolutionary tree is “messier than thought”:
This species was thought to precede Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis. But features of the latest find now suggest that A. anamensis shared the prehistoric Ethiopian landscape with Lucy’s species for at least 100,000 years, the researchers say. This hints that the early hominin evolutionary tree was more complicated than scientists had thought — but other researchers say the evidence isn’t yet conclusive.Colin Barras, “Rare 3.8-million-year-old skull recasts origins of iconic ‘Lucy’ fossil” at Nature
Some, of course, take issue with the idea that the two hominins were contemporaries:
Not everyone is convinced by the team’s argument. Tim White, a paleoanthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, tells The Post that the data could be interpreted differently and might only reveal that the Australopithecus genus was evolving at the time, 3 million to 4 million years ago, and not that the current human family tree is incorrect, though it’s been revised before.Ashley Yeager, “A. anamensis Hominin Skull Could Recast Our Human Family Tree” at The Scientist
It was a time, the story goes, when we were just learning to walk upright:
“Most of A. anamensis’ own traits are quite primitive,” Haile-Selassie says, noting the individual’s small brain, protruding face and large canine teeth. “There are a few features exclusively shared with A. afarensis, like the orbital region in the frontal area. But everything else is really primitive. If you look at it from the back, it looks like an ape. This is something that I never expected to see in a species that is hypothesized to be the ancestor of A. afarensis. So it changed the whole gamut of ideas in terms of the relationship between those two.”Brian Handwerk, “A 3.8-Million-Year-Old Skull Puts a New Face on a Little-Known Human Ancestor” at Smithsonian Magazine
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