Tales of Two Footprints
August 27, 2007
Footprints in the sands of time have been found at two different locations. What tales do they tell? One is a footprint of a Roman soldier. EurekAlert described how the sandal print was uncovered at Hippos, or Susita, on a hill east of the Sea of Galilee. It hints that soldiers participated in […]
Fossil Gorilla Forces Hominid Ancestor Earlier
August 23, 2007
A set of gorilla teeth found in Ethiopia pushes the evolutionary story of a split between apes and humans back almost twice as far as previously thought. Nature reported the fossil announcement that estimated the date of the teeth as 10.5-11 million years old.1 The prior estimate for a human-ape divergence was about 6 million. […]
Homo habilis Contemporary with Homo erectus
August 9, 2007
Homo habilis couldn’t have been the ancestor of Homo erectus, because they lived side by side. This has been all over the news since it was announced in Nature yesterday: see the Times UK, PhysOrg, the BBC News, Reuters Africa, National Geographic, and MSNBC News, which says the new discovery paints a “messy” view of […]
Romanian Neanderthal May Have Interbred With Modern Humans
August 2, 2007
A report in National Geographic says that a skull found in a Romanian cave is shaking up ideas about Neanderthal Man and its relationship to modern humans. The mostly modern skull shows a feature that was characteristic of Neanderthals: “The otherwise human skull has a groove at the base of the back of the skull, […]
Human Variability May Swamp Ancestral Hominid Claims
July 22, 2007
Here are some things to think about when paleoanthropologists draw inferences from fossils alleged to be human ancestors. A seven-foot-nine-inch man in Mongolia just married a lady more than two feet shorter (see picture at National Geographic). And a man with just a narrow rim of brain material inside his skull had no symptoms except […]
News Reporters Knuckling Under to Darwinian Storytelling
July 17, 2007
The science news media are virtually going ape over a claim about how chimpanzees might have evolved into upright-walking humans: what is going on? It began with a paper in PNAS.1 Sockol, Raichlen and Pontzer measured the gaits of chimpanzees and humans and concluded that it is more efficient to walk upright than to propel […]
But Is It Evolution?
July 14, 2007
Every week the news media cheerfully present the latest finding that is claimed to be evidence for evolution. The following recent examples, though, might leave a perceptive reader wondering, “What’s Darwin got to do with it?” Slow? No!: If you thought evolution was a gradual process too slow to watch, get a load of this: […]
The Chimp-Human 1% Difference: A Useful Lie
June 29, 2007
Jon Cohen made a remarkable admission in Science this week.1 The popular notion that humans and chimpanzees are genetically 99% similar is a myth, and should be discarded. Since 1975, textbooks, the media and museums have emphasized this close similarity; but now, Cohen quoted a number of scientists who say the number cannot possibly be […]
Chimp Altruism: Is it All True?
June 27, 2007
Humans are the only inhabitants of earth that are masters of true altruism: helping others with no thought of reward. Previous experiments had shown that chimpanzees lack this trait. Given an opportunity to help another chimp get a banana, they showed no pattern of charity. New experiments by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for […]
The Evolution of Pride: Psychology Trumps the Bible?
June 19, 2007
“The Bible got it wrong,” announced a subtitle on Science Daily: pride doesn’t come before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). A proud look and haughty eyes may be the first two of the Bible’s seven deadly sins (Proverbs 6:16-19), but psychologist Jessica Tracy (U of British Columbia) begs to differ. She says pride can be a […]
Did Walking Evolve in the Trees?
June 4, 2007
The news media are all echoing a report from Science1 that orangutan behavior in trees tells us something about the evolution of human bipedalism (see National Geographic, Fox News, and MSNBC News). If this new view gains acceptance, it means the old iconic image of man emerging upright from a stooped-over ape posture (05/03/2007) is […]
When Is a Primate a Human Ancestor?
May 14, 2007
Behold Aegyptopithecus zeuxis, an extinct fossil monkey. It had a brain smaller than a lemon, smaller than that of modern lemurs. Why, then, are the news media touting this as a human ancestor? The new specimen of Aegyptopithecus is more intact and complete than previous specimens. Two surprises were noted; the amount of […]
Passings: Howell Dies, of Time-Life Book Fame
May 3, 2007
Nature contained an obituary for F. Clark Howell, paleoanthropologist (1925-2007). He knew and worked with most of the 20th century fossil-man hunters from Raymond Dart to the Leakeys. Students will probably remember the Time-Life series he authored, Early Man, with its fold-out panorama by illustrator Jay Matternes of the march from furry monkey to naked […]
Cave Chimps Suggest Cave Men
April 11, 2007
Some chimpanzees have been found in Senegal using caves for shelter from the heat. Jill Pruetz (Iowa State) took note of this and is publishing a paper about it in Primates. National Geographic speculated that this sheds light on human origins: The adaptations of savanna chimpanzees are particularly interesting to researchers because early humans are […]
Lucy the Gorilla?
April 10, 2007
Three scientists from Tel Aviv found a “gorilla-like” jaw structure on a recently discovered specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, of which “Lucy” is the best-known example. This is a problem, because Lucy was supposed to be transitional between chimpanzees and humans, not gorillas. Publishing in PNAS,1 they said, “The presence of the morphology in […]