Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Science

New Skeleton Finds May Revamp History of Human Evolution 131

Posted by timothy
from the history-is-written-by-the-known-survivors dept.
brindafella links to a series of articles published yesterday in the journal Science "on Australopithecus sediba, explaining that skeletons found in the Malapa cave in the World Heritage listed 'Cradle of Civilisation' push back to 1.97 million years the oldest known tool-using, ape-like pre-humans." As is typical, the full Science articles are paywalled, but the abstracts are interesting. (If you're a university student — or, in some cases, an alumni club member — you may have full journal access and not even realize it.) NPR has a nice article on the find as well.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Skeleton Finds May Revamp History of Human Evolution

Comments Filter:
  • Evolution of full of evolutionary useful adaptations reinventing themselves. Doesn't mean it's direct ancestry.

    It has happened before and it will happen again.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      It is one of several candidates to be a critical transition find.

      Right now it,s it looks like it might be, but more study needed. It wouldn't be for first one that turned out to be from a species that ended up being an evolutionary dead end.

      It's pretty interesting find, and the NPR article is a nice review of what it means and whats going on.

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      What the hell are you talking about?
      • He has no idea. He's spouting crap. If he's seriously asserting that these transitional features were later reinvented by a later hominid, he's pretty damned ignorant of hominid evolution. He may be referring, I think, to, say, whales re-evolving morphological features present in ancient aquatic chordate ancestors, but the very fact that the distance between a whale and its fish ancestor is hundreds of millions of years and the distance between this hominid and modern humans is a few million tells you ju

        • There are indeed numerous examples of independent parallel evolution of very similar things in both close and very distant species, so I don't understand the heat directed at GP.

          • We're talking here about bipedalism, hands much closer to humans than the other apes, in other words a suite of morphological features. It's absurd to think that this some early dead end and the same large-scale features evolved again in another hominid line a few million years later.

            I'm not saying these two specimens or even their particular lineage were ancestral to us, but clearly those adaptations are precisely what one would look for in pushing back in time.

          • At this paucity of specimens and with this frequency (indirect guess) of generation? It's not the millions of years, it's the millions of generations. If you're going to compare fruit flies, then you have to use 1mo=20yr for a scale.

            So, do you have reference to numerous examples of species with a 20yr generation and an equivalent population to early hominids which exhibit convergent evolution?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      So say we all!

    • by Xaide (1015779)
      There is the theory of the Moebius, a twist in the fabric of space, where time becomes a loop.
    • by MimeticLie (1866406) on Friday September 09, 2011 @08:16PM (#37358672)
      That was what the scientists behind the discovery argued on Science Friday. Even Berger, who found it (and was implied [todayonline.com] to be saying it was a human ancestor) argued that it was more significant in opening up our idea of what morphology defines the genus Homo than in being a possible ancestor.

      The Science Friday [sciencefriday.com] story (audio on the left side of the page) is definitely worth listening to. Quick version: sediba has some features, in the hands and elsewhere, that are associated with the genus Homo and our direct ancestors. But it also has very ape-like qualities that make it less likely to be a direct ancestor. It's also notable in that it was discovered as two very complete skeletons rather than fragments, as many transitional species are.

      Cool story all around.
    • This is a hominid, that much is clear. It may not be an ancestor in the way your grandfather is an ancestor, but it is most certain that there's no wheel invention here, these are features peculiar to our lineage.

      • It's enough to say that it's a cousin, as every single other creature on this planet is.
        • by Pharmboy (216950)

          It's enough to say that it's a cousin, as every single other creature on this planet is.

          But unlike chimps, this is a kissing cousin, we could have interbred with them and may have. Not necessarily our direct ancestor, but lived in the same world as our direct ancestors, and didn't win the evolutionary lottery.

    • That quote is 125,000 yrs old so we are the happen again.

    • by RoLi (141856)

      Yes, actually the whole "out-of-Africa" theory is standing on a weak foundation. [in-other-news.com]

      Basically anthropologists made a lot of assumptions when formulating that theory and the whole thing falls apart with new DNA-tests.

      • by 517714 (762276)
        It must have been too "inconvinient" to use spell check. I'm not sure which is weaker - their arguments or their diction.

        The death of the Out-of-Africa theory

        New finds and research results prove the theory that said that human evolution happened exclusively in Africa.

        So is the title wrong or the first sentence? It doesn't really improve from there unless you are a grammar nazi in search of a target rich environment.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Am I missing something? Isn't this cave in Africa...?

      • The article in Nature says no such thing. It is far more nuanced, tentative and uncertain than your summary.

        Human ancestors in Eurasia earlier than thought [nature.com]
      • Hmmmm, let's see. There's more genetic variation IN Africa than out of it. Almost ALL major human ancestor fossils have been found IN Africa. Almost ALL major human cultural innovations have been found EARLIEST in Africa. The Out of Africa theory implied that the last African exodus would have moved through populations which were more primitive than us (e.g. Neanderthals) and we found 4% Neanderthal DNA in all non-Africans.

        Sorry, WHICH weak foundation are you referring to?

        A "purist" Out of Africa theory

        • The article he linked is referring to the possibility of back and forth movement into and out of Africa. Findings have suggested that homo erectus might have evolved more in Eurasia after leaving Africa than evolving in Africa then leaving it.
          • Yes, I grasped that. Since there is more Homo Sapiens genetic variation IN Africa than out of it; that IMPLIES that Homo Sapiens evolved there. Any Eurasian Homo Erectus either:
            • Is not a direct ancestor
            • Moved back to Africa
            • Has older cousin fossils awaiting discovery in Africa
    • In general, it's highly unlikely we'll find any fossils of great great great great etc grandpa Homo Sapiens. There is just too much time and too little likelihood of a given specimen being fossilized. But, we will find a lot of great great great etc cousin Homo Sapiens. That's what this fossil sounds like, and just because it's not quite in the direct line doesn't mean that it can't teach us a lot about ourselves and how we evolved.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't they do this every couple of years?

    • No, as a matter of fact, they don't, jackass.
    • Even if you are an AC I'm still commenting.

      I would say articles are submitted on main line tracts of every topic every week. Just to get it published means it's worth paying attention to. On the other hand it also means you'll see another revolutionary evolution/refinement every couple years. As far as the subject matter I think it's very apropos.

      P.S. And yes I transposed a word in my previous post.

  • I thought civilization had to do with agriculture and an end to being total nomads, so one could build a city.

    Tool use is great and all, but not civilation I would think.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I thought civilization had to do with agriculture and an end to being total nomads, so one could build a city.

      Civilization is defined by the use of monetary instruments. The more advanced the civilization, the closer they are to using Bitcoins.

      • A truly advanced civilization would have discovered free energy, eliminated scarcity and would need no money. Have you ever seen Star Trek?
    • by Skidborg (1585365)
      If we were to invent cheap spaceship cities and give up stationary living, would we no longer be civilized?
      • by AvitarX (172628)

        If they didn't have agriculture there would be a fair point I think.

        Though you called them cities, and I said "allowing cities" so I think you're hypothetical counter is at best only half counter.

        My point was tools aren't civiliztion, and I would argue that complex communication isn't either (but there is a case for that), it's cities that make civilization.

        Thus nomadic barbarians being called uncivilized.

        • by meglon (1001833)
          I'm thinking the whole "uncivilized barbarians" label came about less because the didn't have cities, which some did, but more for their propensity of pulling peoples livers our through their sphincter at a moments notice (or other acts of telling people to frak off that didn't meet with the aforementioned persons liking).
          • Well, it's not as if the "civilized" Romans, Persians, Babylonians, Assyrians, (the endless list goes on) didn't do "barbaric" things like that as well. Mankinds history has always been violent, regardless of class. Mostly the label of "Barbarian" comes from a bias .F'instance, the Celtic tribes had laws, mathematics, and technology (i.e. among other things, all indications are that the celts invented (chain) mail, an advanced form of armor that the "more civilized" cultures borrowed), yet were still consi
  • As is typical, the full Science articles are paywalled

    Indeed, the articles in question are behind the Science paywall. But it is like that because we've liked it that way for some time. This is changing as time goes on; now all NIH-funded (read: US government-funded) research must be published in a way that allows for free access. Science, Nature, and other high-impact journals have ways to comply with that when needed.

    However, the journals do need to be able to make money to pay their staff and meet their business expenses. Maybe the model doesn't fit modern times, but it is what it is.

    And we are talking about the journal Science, one of the most widely subscribed journals anywhere. You might not even need to go to your closest university to read it; there is a good chance your local public library has a subscription to it as well. You may even be able to get to it online if you're creative.

    • But it is like that because we've liked it that way for some time. This is changing as time goes on;

      Not changing very quickly, though. At the end of the Science Friday segment about this Ira Flatow asked the scientists about the high resolution scans they made of the skulls and made an offhand comment about 3D printers and releasing the data to the public. The scientist made a big deal about how they had made the data available for months now, if you were a scientist and showed up at the Smithsonian.

      So close, and yet so far away.

      • I want to know where I can get a high res scan/3D "print" of my own skull.
        • by bmo (77928)

          You can do this.

          Go to a place where they have CAT scan, a hospital or a private company.

          Get a scan

          Call up a company with a Dimension printer or other 3D printer. There are 3D printers that also do powdered metallurgy sintering with lasers. (and nowadays there is more 3D printing technology than you can shake a stick at. Can you say "powdered metal ceramic"? I knew you could).

          Send them the data.

          Have them print it.

          Pay for all this.

          --
          BMO

          • You know that would almost be worth it. It would be pretty damn cool to have a model of your own skull.

            • by rokstar (865523)
              If I had a 3d printed model of my own skull, i would hold it up any time company was over a comment about how alas, I knew him.
            • It would be pretty damn cool to have a model of your own skull.

              Even better to play Shakespeare while holding your own skull in your hand.

              Alas, poor me! I knew myself, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; I hath borne me on my back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination I am!

              Who knew it would only take a 3d printer to hack a Shakespeare play?

      • But it is like that because we've liked it that way for some time. This is changing as time goes on;

        Not changing very quickly, though

        For work sponsored by the US government, it is changing very quickly. I've seen numerous papers in both Nature and Science that were released at no cost because they were the product of federally sponsored work, and even far more papers are going straight into journals that release all their published papers to the public.

        Of course, other countries will set the regulations they see fit for the work they pay for. And non-government-funded research has its own regulations behind it.

    • You could become an AAAS member. http://www.aaas.org/membership/ [aaas.org]
    • by jc79 (1683494)

      However, the journals do need to be able to make money to pay their staff and meet their business expenses. Maybe the model doesn't fit modern times, but it is what it is.

      Some journals don't even pay their staff or even need to meet many of their business expenses. A comment [guardian.co.uk] by "MrBendy" here [guardian.co.uk] gives this interesting perspective (emphasis mine):

      I was a journal editor for several years and, like George Monbiot, was left astonished by the shamelessness with which this racket operates.

      In particular, I did all, and I mean ALL, the donkeywork personally, from licking envelopes to commissioning reviews to copy-editing all contributions. Yet not a cent did I receive from the publisher, a well-known British academic publisher. In effect the considerable operating costs of every part of the journal's work up to setting, printing and distribution were carried by me personally, using my spare time, and to a limited degree by my employer (a university) in so far as I was able to use a little normal work-time on occasion and pass the journal's (substantial) postal costs through my departmental office. ...
      The final indignity for me was, on inquiring of the trustees about succession planning, being told that it was essentially up to me to persuade someone else to become editor. In short, it was my problem and mine alone and I was expected to continue working for free to generate large profits for the publisher and a small rake-off for the trust until or unless I could find a mug to replace me. ...
      For the publisher, of course, this extraordinary combination of unpaid and unresourced amateur production, which reduces costs to a bare minimum, and the opportunity then to maximise revenues through the lucrative exercise of legal and financial power, is immensely attractive as a business model.

      • Some journals don't even pay their staff or even need to meet many of their business expenses. A comment by "MrBendy" here gives this interesting perspective (emphasis mine):

        That isn't a huge surprise that someone was not getting paid to review articles; I know academics who do that at essentially their own cost as well.

        There are indeed many problems with the system as it is. Unfortunately it is what it is because we allowed it to get this way. Which is a sad explanation for it, but it isn't going to change dramatically overnight. Personally I would have preferred to see this paper in PNAS or PLoS One (both of which are free and high impact) but the prestige is still wi

        • by jc79 (1683494)

          Not just not getting paid to review articles; he was the editor of the journal, and did it for free while the publisher charged a fortune for access to the content.

          I'm astonished that people have put up with this for so long. It's time for people to vote with their wallets - if university libraries (journals' biggest customers) refused to buy journal subscriptions then the journals would face a huge shortfall in income and be forced to change their business models.

  • by dbet (1607261) on Friday September 09, 2011 @08:28PM (#37358772)
    New evidence = new theories.

    As opposed to politics and religion, new evidence = character assassinate those who presented the evidence.
    • This happens in science too. New "evidence" = new criticism and testing those new findings. That's one of the great things about science: it's possible to test everything like this.

      Politics, on the other hand, doesn't work that way. You don't know how well something will work for certain until you try it and even then there are so many other variables that you don't even know if anything you changed did any good or bad, and then everybody praises/criticizes you for it either way.

      And Religion is WAY differen

      • by microbox (704317)
        Your response was very confused.

        + Politics is about being seen to have the answers, and "mastering" all opposition, so of course politicians nay-say each other continuous. Political epistemology has nothing to do with whether you try something, but whether it will make you powerful.

        + Religion can have very sophisticated epistemologies, but always works from a set of givens. For example, we /know/ God exists. The set of givens can differ from "everything is the good book is literally true", to "Jesus wa
      • by Empiric (675968)
        That's one of the great things about science: it's possible to test everything like this.

        Ah, no, completely false. Did you even think to propose that a test to differentiate this finding from a one-off birth defect was necessary, as a hypothesis? I'm betting no, because this was presented as "science"--the general appearance of being so is generally immediately sufficient for most as long as the thing proposed being something they already want to agree with.

        The reality is, the majority of proposition
    • New evidence = new theories.

      As opposed to politics and religion, new evidence = character assassinate those who presented the evidence.

      Haven't read all that much history of science, have you? Yes, scientists are just as prone to character assassination of people who disagree with them as anyone else.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I read it in National Geographic at the dentist's office.
    She compared my teeth to the ones in the photos, not very favorabley.

  • by Absolut187 (816431) on Friday September 09, 2011 @11:25PM (#37359836) Homepage

    What's his take on this? Seriously..

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday September 10, 2011 @01:28AM (#37360326)

      What's his take on this? Seriously..

      I'm guessing he hasn't received his copy of Science yet.

    • Officially, he'll have none. It's a losing proposition. He's made it clear to the people who want to hear it that he doesn't need facts from any experts. Once that's clear enough, he doesn't need to talk about it anymore. The fundies know he's one of them, and bringing it up just makes him look nutso to more moderate voters.

  • ALL HAIL AUSTRALOPITHECUS
  • It' behind a paywall, sadly. We'll never get to it now...

(1) Never draw what you can copy. (2) Never copy what you can trace. (3) Never trace what you can cut out and paste down.

Working...