Was Baby Lucy Someone Elses Kid?
Jeffrey Schwartz (U of Pittsburgh) thinks the “child” skeleton nicknamed “Lucy’s baby” celebrated in the news media last month (09/20/2006) was probably not the same species as Lucy. In fact, he’s not sure if anyone knows what species the skeleton found in Hadar, Ethiopia is. According to a press release on EurekAlert, without exposed teeth surfaces for comparison, “one cannot tell whether the Dikika child really is the first specimen of Ethiopian A. afarensis or, if not, whether it compares favorably with one of the hominids from Hadar or it represents a different taxon altogether.” The doubt over taxons underscores the difficulty of drawing distinctions when the only material to work with is bone (05/24/2004).
One problem with classifying this juvenile individual with Lucy is that all the previous Australopithecus afarensis specimens were from Laetoli, Tanzania, thousands of kilometers to the south. Did they actually extend all over Africa, or were the Ethiopian specimens a distinct population? Schwartz, co-author of a four-volume work on the human fossil record, said that all the Laetoli fossils differ in detail from those in Hadar. “This means, of course, that no Hadar specimen is A. afarensis.”
It’s kind of fun watching the Planet of the Apes actors fight each other (e.g., 12/21/2004, 09/23/2004). You saw this latest dispute coming, of course. After awhile, each new episode looks like a rerun (for the plot line, see 06/11/2003 commentary). We know it’s all fiction anyway (see 12/30/2004, 11/19/2004, 02/19/2004).