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Little Foot ushers in some tumultuous times in Human Evolution

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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.

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Tidgy's Dad

Thanks for this! 

Fascinating. :)

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Very interessant article. Thank you to share.:)

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