When first reported, this hominin was given the name Zinjanthropus boisei. He was considered to be a human ancestor and was portrayed as an upright hairy apeman. Later, he was renamed Australopithecus boisei, but then was moved to a separate genus, receiving the name Paranthropus boisei. He still appears in some presentations of human ancestry. What makes him memorable are his magnificent teeth:
“For decades, scientists thought that the large, heavy teeth the primates had were used in cracking open hard foods such as nuts. The common name for Paranthropus was “Nutcracker Man” for this very reason.”
[. . .]
[The take-home message:]
Nutcracker Man is a notable example of how morphology was wrongly interpreted for decades and only recently overturned. The problem with “conventional wisdom” is that it has been led by a dogma about the nature of evolutionary transformation from ape-like ancestor to humanity and it is long overdue that this “wisdom” be subjected to some systematic and rational critical scrutiny.
Maybe it will help if this particular fossil hominin gets a new popular name. It was not a nutcracker nor was it a man! It was a specialised (derived) ape that fed primarily on grass and is now extinct. It has nothing to do with human ancestry. Any thoughts on a suitable popular name?
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