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Science

Modern Humans Bred With Evolutionary Predecessors In Africa 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-you-doin dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Based on a new analysis of old skulls, it now appears that modern humans may have interbred with some earlier hominid species, suggesting that human evolution took a more complex path than previously thought. The study opines that modern humans lived side by side with the older species. Paleontologists disagree over the meaning of the findings, or whether they have any substantial significance at all."
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Modern Humans Bred With Evolutionary Predecessors In Africa

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  • Re:A single fossil (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 16, 2011 @03:18PM (#37423428)

    Skull.
    Ignore the summary, RTFA.
    Skull.

  • Re:A single fossil (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bob-taro (996889) on Friday September 16, 2011 @03:55PM (#37423784)

    How do they draw this conclusion from a single fossil? Couldn't it have been a deformed human? There are still humans born with the occasional pre-humanoid traits, like tails.

    FTA:

    But palaeontologists are not all agreed on precisely what the new analysis is telling us - or, indeed, whether it is telling us anything definitive at all.

    "I do not think that these findings add anything new to our view," said Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, who was not connected to the study.

    Please don't mod me informative just for quoting the original article.

  • Re:genetic evidence (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 16, 2011 @04:01PM (#37423842)
    Don't use link shorteners on a site without character limits. It just makes people think you're linking to goatse. This is the parent's resolved link: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/09/africans-arent-pure-humans-either/#more-13790 [discovermagazine.com]
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday September 16, 2011 @05:43PM (#37424650) Journal

    That has not been an adequate species concept for decades. No one defines species based solely on infertility. That two distinct populations can interbreed does not automatically make them the same species, any more, in fact, that distaff members of related populations being unable to interbreed makes them different species. For instance Great Danes and Chihuahas are both members of C. lupis, despite the fact that they cannot interbreed, because intermediaries can. This is a classic example of a ring species.

    The species concept is a rather complex one, and doesn't lend itself to concrete definitions. Any general statement you make about what constitutes a species cannot apply to every situation. Of course, we can never know for sure that all of genus Homo is one species or several. We're going largely off of morphological data, which is dangerous, because, again, it can paint a false picture. Some alien taxonomist might look at the skeleton of a great dane and a miniature poodle and assume the two were different species.

    But since there is value to classifying extinct hominids, to show trends in morphological and physiological changes, as much as anything it's convenience to group them into different species and even genuses, even though we're only able to measure some of the characteristics, and not get a fuller picture (ie. genetic data). Even the divide between the Australopithecines and genus Homo is somewhat arbitrary, but still useful because of the clearly more human traits found with H. habilis.

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