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Found 5 results

  1. It’s an exciting time to be watching paleoanthropology unfold! Since the 1990’s, the paleoanthropological community has been waiting for Little Foot the Australopithecus to make its debut. Following increased pressure to allow teams other than the one that discovered it to examine the amazing remains, (Background ) the skeleton has been open for examinations and the original team headed by Ron Clarke has been releasing and pre-releasing papers this month. The flurry of activity has been met with some opposition, especially by Lee Berger, the man behind the excavation of Au. sediba and H. naledi. Berger and John Hawks have recently released a paper (“Australopithecus prometheus is a Nomen nudum,” I’m not sure if it’s open access but if you message Lee Berger on Facebook he will send you a PDF) which prevents the skeleton from bearing the name Au. prometheus if it is proposed as a new species. He has also pointed out that the skeleton is younger than it has been made out to be (Here’s why), and doesn’t like the preprints and things that have yet to be fully peer reviewed, stating publicly: “I suspect the #littlefoot papers will become a historical teaching moment, but not for the right reasons.” He believes more comparative analysis is nessecary. I bet you we will see Lee release some major papers on Little Foot in the near future. Don Johansson, Lucy’s discoverer, weighed in as well: “This controversy should not distract from Ron Clarke's discovery and years of dedication to cleaning this specimen and making it available to science. Unlike some other discoveries that have been rushed into print and hastily excavated, Little Foot is an example of responsible science. Whether it is a new species is, at this point, not the issue, since detailed comparative work, assessing all the South African Australopithecus species is necessary to evaluate that premise. An excellent example of how science progress is the revaluation of A. sediba, a proposed new species. After further careful study and comparative analysis it has been shown to belong to A. africanus (the initial suggestion the sediba was a new species failed to take into account that the type specimen was immature and not adult). Congratulations to Ron Clarke this monumental achievement is a fitting culmination of a stellar career. What paleoanthropologist wouldn't be thrilled to have been responsible for the oldest, most complete skeleton of a human ancestor--Little Foot” Here, Johansson agrees with Berger that more comparative analysis is necessary and that it is premature to name a species but takes a swipe at Berger’s assessment of Au. sediba. He supports Clarke and the time he took to excavate and study. Here is another article on it.
  2. I don't read a lot about hominid fossils but I try to keep up with general knowledge of recent finds and discussions. Sometimes, the various science magazines will publish a special issue on the subject and I try to pick up a copy. The September issue of Natural History is devoted to human origins with a few articles with even one on the ancient primates of the Paleocene and Eocene along with a reprinted column by the late Stephen J. Gould. I haven't read it yet but leafed through it (nice artwork and fossil photos in it). I had seen it that month at a local Barnes & Noble but the last copy was all bent-up like an accordion. I looked for it at another store but couldn't find it. I went back to pick up the beat-up one I had seen but it was gone. After hunting around the magazine website, I found that back issues were available so I mailed away for it ($7 including shipping). Ten days later, it arrived. In case anyone else is interested, here's the link to page with the back issue address - just scroll down to it: http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/contact.html
  3. This study recently came out, and added another piece of evidence for Australopithecus afarensis living most of its life in the trees (which doesn’t mean it couldn’t or didn’t walk upright when it needed to).
  4. a book review of: The Hunters or the Hunted?: An Introduction to African Cave Taphonomy by C.K. Brain. 1981. The University of Chicago Press. 365 pages. Large trade paperback. Suggested retail: $55 USD. In the early years of the 20th century, paleontology was still a young science. Across the 1900's it matured as unusually-rich fossil deposits offered opportunities beyond just naming extinct species. In some cases truckloads of bones could be collected; in others numerous exoskeletons were preserved in exquisite detail. Some localities sampled more than one bed, each representing a distinct world. Studying the encasing matrix became as important as the organisms because this led to the reconstructing of paleoenvironments. Geologists established a surprising big picture - plate tectonics - while paleontologists started to pay attention to the small details of an organism's path from death through deposition and called it a science of its own - taphonomy. "The Hunters or the Hunted?" is the title and the condensed version of the main question of this book: are the early hominid remains found in three cave systems in the Sterkfontein Valley of South Africa evidence of our ancestors occupying the caves or are they the discarded leftovers of carnivores that preyed upon hominids? Answering that question required new research on how bones accumulate in those caves today, research on the fossils from the caves, and research on the animals that live in the area today. The remains dated from between 1.6 and 2.6 million years ago, spanning the Late Pliocene - Early Pleistocene boundary, which marks the beginning of the ice ages. The interval is also significant because australopithecines (early human species related to the famous "Lucy") were on their way to becoming extinct while the earliest representatives of Homo, the modern genus, were spreading across Africa. The author, Charles Kimberlin Brain, then-director of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, South Africa, was already a respected paleoanthropologist when this book was published. Now retired but still active, he is considered a pioneer in the field of taphonomy - still in its infancy in the early 1980's with the term having been coined only forty years before. The book uses the term "hominid," which is a member of the Hominidae, the family which has traditionally comprised only extinct and modern humans. Since the 1990's, however, researchers have employed the term "hominin," a member of the Tribe Hominini, for that grouping. Meanwhile, "hominid" remains in use but is more broadly defined to include the modern great apes. This has led to some confusion among laymen and scientists who misunderstood the terms to be interchangeable (or perhaps considered "hominin" a typo). In biology a tribe is a formal classification level between family and genus. The reinterpretation of the Hominidae and the Hominini reflects recent work toward increased precision in determining ancestral groups and their descendants - part of a general reassessment of the tree of life. The book is composed of two parts. The first is a guide to the interpretation of the bone accumulations in the caves at Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, and Kromdraai with this part subdivided into eight chapters. They report on early research by Professor R.A. Dart, review the durability of various bones in a mammal skeleton, distinguish between the food remains (and activities) of various animals, and examine the observed compressional effects on bones preserved in cave sediments. The second part breaks down the combined faunas of the three cave systems and then each one individually (history of research, geology, and paleontology) with comparative notes on other australopithecine sites in southern Africa. In the last chapter, Brain goes back over his work and lists his own reservations before presenting hypotheses on the dwellers of those caves. He provides the answer to the title question, though as the evidence mounts across the previous chapters, the reader may have already reached the same conclusion. A postscript cautions that because many of the fossils (those excavated before Brain's time) were not carefully collected and documented the answer to the question should not be considered final - still ripe for further study. The appendix contains seventy pages of tables - all the fine details of the study (bone totals and identifications, various measurements, etc.). In the course of its analysis, the book presents a model for future investigations and not just for bone accumulations in caves. For any similar question of taphonomy there must be a thorough step-by-step procedure to answer it just as in any other science. Brain stresses the need for correcting the sloppy fossil collecting practices of the past (specimens previously cleaned of matrix without noting the precise stratigraphic level) and reducing other margins of error. Similar to a good mystery novel, "The Hunters or the Hunted?" introduces the setting, the suspects, the innocent bystanders, and the unwitting crime scene contaminators - all in detail. The fossils are compared to the remains of victims of known predators and scavengers living in the area now. In some cases very close relatives of modern species were present during the time in question so the behaviors of those forms can be deduced with some confidence but it was also long enough ago that the bones of saber-toothed cats and various extinct hyena species were also associated resulting in some speculation on how their behaviors would have impacted the remains. Printing in color was especially expensive in the early 1980's, so a "limited-interest" book like this featured only black-and-white illustrations except for the front to back cover photo. Some of the photos (fossils, modern animals, localities, etc.) could have been better-lit but most of them are very good. The text is further supported by numerous good drawings, maps, and charts. The book is geared to paleontologists. It is detailed yet the writing style is almost casual so an interested layman could read through the text without much trouble, especially with the way everything is described and explained in Part 1 and with the abundant illustrations throughout. I think "The Hunters or the Hunted?" would appeal to a wide range of paleo-book readers and even prompt them to look for an update on the research of the Sterkfontein caves since its release. I would recommend it for students curious about early taphonomic studies. Readers intrigued by studies of fossil-bearing caves may see similarities with sites elsewhere on the globe. Others may be interested in the mix of vertebrates that lived in southern Africa during the Late Pliocene and Pleistocene as few mainstream books cover that part of the world of that time. Some may value this book as a reminder that there was a time when humans eked out a living on the fringes of more established empires but also rose to dominance within that same geologic moment. Jess
  5. theFThese are a few of the pdf files (and a few Microsoft Word documents) that I've accumulated in my web browsing. MOST of these are hyperlinked to their source. If you want one that is not hyperlinked or if the link isn't working, e-mail me at joegallo1954@gmail.com and I'll be happy to send it to you. Please note that this list will be updated continuously as I find more available resources. All of these files are freely available on the Internet so there should be no copyright issues. Articles with author names in RED are new additions since March 21, 2017. Order Primates Superfamily Hominoidea Family Afropithecidae Deane, A.S. (2012). New evidence for canine dietary function in Afropithecus turkanensis. Journal of Human Evolution, 62(6). Kelley, J. and T.M. Smith (2003. Age at first molar emergence in early Miocene Afropithecus turkanensis and life-history evolution in the Hominoidea. Journal of Human Evolution, 44. Patel, B.A. and A. Grossman (2006). Dental metric comparisons of Morotopithecus and Afropithecus: Implications for the validity of the genus Morotopithecus. Journal of Human Evolution, 51. Sanders, W.J. and B.E. Bodenbender (1994). Morphometric analysis of lumbar vertebra UMP 67-28: Implications for spinal function and phylogeny of the Miocene Motoro hominoid. Journal of Human Evolution, 26. Smith, T.M., L.B. Martin and M.G. Leakey (2003). Enamel thickness, microstructure and development in Afropithecus turkanensis. Journal of Human Evolution, 44. Family Hylobatidae - Gibbons Ingicco, T., J. de Vos and O.F. Huffman (2014). The Oldest Gibbon Fossil (Hylobatidae) from Insular Southeast Asia: Evidence from Trinil (East Java, Indonesia), Lower/Middle Pleistocene. PLoS ONE, 9(6). Ortiz, A., et al. (2015). The Taxonomic and Phylogenetic Affinities of Bunopithecus sericus, a Fossil Hylobatid from the Pleistocene of China. PLoS ONE, 10(7). Wu, R. and Y. Pan (1984). The Hylobatidae from the Late Miocene of Lufeng, Yunnan. Acta Anthropologica Sinica, Vol.3, Number 3. Family Hominidae - "Great Apes" (including Humans) Subfamily Homininae Tribe Dryopithecini Alba, D.M., J. Fortuny and S. Moyà-Solà (2010). Enamel thickness in the Middle Miocene great apes Anoiapithecus, Pierolapithecus, and Dryopithecus. Proc.R.Soc. B, published online. Alba, D.M., et al. (2013). New dental remains of Anoiapithecus and the first appearance datum of hominoids in the Iberian peninsula. Journal of Human Evolution, xxx. (Article in press) Begun, D.R. (2009). Dryopithecins, Darwin, de Bonis, and the European origin of the African apes and human clade. Geodiversitas, 31(4). Begun, D.R. (2004). Sivapithecus is east and Dryopithecus is west, and never the twain shall meet. Anthropological Science. Begun, D.R. (1992). Dryopithecus crusafonti sp.nov., a New Miocene Hominoid Species from Can Ponsic (Northeastern Spain). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 87. Brown, B., W.K. Gregory and M. Hellman (1924). On Three Incomplete Anthropoid Jaws from the Siwaliks, India. American Museum Novitates, Number 130. Greenfield, L.O. (1972). Sexual Dimorphism in Dryopithecus africanus. Primates, 13(4). Kohler, M. and S. Moya-Sola (1997). Ape-like or hominid-like? The positional behavior of Oreopithecus bambolii reconsidered. Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci. USA, Vol.94. (Note: placement in Dryopithecini disputed) Kordos, L. and D.R. Begun (2001). A new cranium of Dryopithecus from Rudabánya, Hungary. Journal of Human Evolution, 41. Kunimatsu, Y., et al. (2007). A new Late Miocene great ape from Kenya and its implications for the origins of African great apes and humans. PNAS, Vol.104, Number 49. Merceron, G., et al. (2007). Paleoenvironment of Dryopithecus brancoi at Rudabánya , Hungary: evidence from dental meso- and micro-wear analyses of large vegetarian mammals. Journal of Human Evolution, 53. Moya-Sola, S., et al. (2009). A unique Middle Miocene European hominoid and the origins of the great ape and human clade. PNAS, Vol.106, Number 24. Ribot, F., J. Gibert and T. Harrison (1996). A reinterpretation of the taxonomy of Dryopithecus from Vallès-Penedès, Catalonia (Spain). Journal of Human Evolution, 31. Tribe Gorillini - Gorillas Smith, B.H. (1994). Patterns of Dental Development in Homo, Australopithecus, Pan and Gorilla. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 94. Tribe Hominini - Chimpanzees, Bonobos and Humans Subtribe Panina - Chimpanzees and Bonobos DeSilva, J., E. Shoreman and L. MacLatchy (2006). A fossil hominoid proximal femur from Kikorongo Crater, southwestern Uganda. Journal of Human Evolution, 50. Smith, B.H. (1994). Patterns of Dental Development in Homo, Australopithecus, Pan and Gorilla. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 94. Subtribe Hominina - Humans Genus Ardipithecus (Placement in Hominina debated) Gani, M.R. and N.D. Gani (2011). River-margin habitat of Ardipithecus ramidus at Aramis, Ethiopia 4.4 million years ago. Nature Communications, 2:602. Gibbons, A. (2009). A New Kind of Ancestor: Ardipithecus Unveiled. Science, Vol.326. Kimbel, W.H., et al. (2014). Ardipithecus ramidus and the evolution of the human cranial base. PNAS, early edition. Lovejoy, C.O. (2009). Reexamining Human Origins in Light of Ardipithecus ramidus. Science, Vol.362. White, T.D., G. Suwa and B. Asfaw (1994). Australopithecus ramidus, a new species of early hominid from Aramis, Ethiopia. Nature, Vol. 371. White, T.D., et al. (2009). Ardipithecus ramidus and the Paleobiology of Early Hominids. Science, Vol.362. WoldeGabriel, G., et al. (2009). The Geological, Isotopic, Botanical, Invertebrate, and Lower Vertebrate Surroundings of Ardipithecus ramidus. Science, Vol.326. Genus Australopithecus Australopithecus africanus Ahern, J.C.M. (1998). Underestimating Intraspecific Variation: The Problem With Excluding Sts 19 from Australopithecus africanus. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 105. Barak, M.M., et al. (2013). Trabecular Evidence for a Human-Like Gait in Australopithecus africanus. PLoS ONE, 8(11). Berger, L.R. (2006). Brief Communication: Predatory Bird Damage to the Taung Type-Skull of Australopithecus africanus Dart, 1925. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 131. Berger, L.R. and W.S. McGraw (2007). Further evidence for eagle predation of, and feeding damage on, the Taung child. South African Journal of Science, 103. Claxton, A.G., et al. (2016). Virtual reconstruction of the Australopithecus africanus pelvis Sts 65 with implications for obstetrics and locomotion. Journal of Human Evolution, 99. Dart, R.A. (1925). Australopithecus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa. Nature, Vol.115, Number 2884. Falk, D., et al. (2012). Metopic suture of Taung (Australopithecus africanus) and its implications for hominin brain evolution. PNAS, Vol.109, Number 22. Green, D.J. and A.D. Gordon (2008). Metacarpal proportions in Australopithecus africanus. Journal of Human Evolution, 54. Green, D.J., A.D. Gordon and B.G. Richmond (2007). Limb-size proportions in Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus africanus. Journal of Human Evolution, 52. Häusler, M. and L. Berger (2001). Stw 441/465: a new fragmentary ilium of a small-bodied Australopithecus africanus from Sterkfontein, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution, 40. Holloway, R.L., R.J. Clarke and P.V. Tobias (2004). Posterior lunate sulcus in Australopithecus africanus: was Dart right? C.R. Palevol, 00. McHenry, H.M. and L.R. Berger (1998). Body proportions in Australopithecus afarensis and A. africanus and the origin of the genus homo. Journal of Human Evolution, 35. Neubauer, S., et al. (2004). Three-dimensional digital imaging of the partial Australopithecus africanus endocranium MLD 37/38. Can. Assoc. Radiol. J., 55(4). Ripamonti, U., et al. (1997). Further evidence of periodontal bone pathology in a juvenile specimen of Australopithecus africanus from Sterkfontein, South Africa. South African Journal of Science, Vol. 93. Spoor, F. (1997). Basicranial architecture and relative brain size of Sts 5 (Australopithecus africanus) and other Plio-Pleistocene hominids. South African Journal of Science, Vol.93. Strait, D.L., et al. (2008). The feeding biomechanics and dietary ecology of Australopithecus africanus. PNAS. van der Merwe, N.J., et al. (2003). The carbon isotope ecology and diet of Australopithecus africanus at Sterkfontein, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution, 44. Australopithecus deyiremeda Spoor, F., M.G. Leakey and P. O'Higgins (2016). Middle Pliocene hominin diversity: Australopithecus deyiremeda and Kenyanthropus platyops. Phil.Trans.R.Soc. B, 371. Australopithecus garhi Asfaw, B., et al. (1999). Australopithecus garhi: A New Species of Early Hominid from Ethiopia. Science, Vol.284. Australopithecus sediba Berger, L.R. (2012). Australopithecus sediba and the earliest orgins of the genus Homo. Journal of Anthropological Sciences, 20. Berger, L.R., et al. (2010). Australopithecus sediba: A New Species of Homo-Like Australopith from South Africa. Science, Vol.328. Carlson, K.B., et al. (2016). Developmental simulation of the adult cranial morphology of Australopithecus sediba. South African Journal of Earth Science, Vol.112 (Numbers 7-8). Carlson, K.J., et al. (2011). The Endocast of MH1, Australopithecus sediba. Science, 333(6048). de Ruiter, D.J., et al. (2013). Mandibular Remains Support Taxonomic Validity of Australopithecus sediba. Science, Vol.340. Dirks, P.H.G.M., et al. (2010). Geological Setting and Age of Australopithecus sediba from Southern Africa. Science, Vol.328. Churchill, S.E., et al. (2013). 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