Today, I’m doing something a little different on Know Your Primate. Today we are having a surprise quiz! The quiz is in an essay format and only has one question.
Here is a picture of La Ferrassie 1
and here is a picture of Shanidar 1
Now here is the question. Below are two statements from an article by Trinkaus (Modern Human versus Neandertal Evolutionary Distinctiveness) published in the most recent issue of Current Anthropology (2006, 47(4):597-620)
Different sets of Neandertal versus modern human derived traits could of course be composed and some of these traits combined or subdivided, which would produce different totals of derived traits. It may therefore be possible not to reject the null hypothesis of less derived modern humans at the P = 0.05 level. However, it would be difficult, without distorting the fossil record unduly, to make modern humans less derived than the Neandertals or even approach the same number of uniquely derived characteristics.
When these data on probable trait polarities are combined and one appropriately uses the available data from the entire skeleton and dentition, it is not the Neandertals who appear unusual, special, derived, autapomorphous. It is we.
Write an essay supporting or defending the thesis.
For purposes of comparison here are several more pictures:
This is Mladec 1
This is Skhul 5
Both Mladec and Skhul were considered transitional by Wolpoff in his book Paleoanthropology.
Here is a picture of Cro Magnion 1
Which is, of course, Homo sapiens.
Here is another quote from the Trinkaus article to help you:
This minimal attention to the uniqueness of modern humanity should not be surprising in view of the general approach to human evolution, in which the evolutionary path to modern humanity is frequently taken as a given. However, it has tended to cast extinct human forms such as the Neandertals (or robust Australopithecus,
East Asian H. erectus, and others) in a deviant framework, leaving the evolutionary trajectory to modern humanity
unblemished with autapomorphies.
The entire article is quite fascinating. Trinkaus examines 75 cranial, mandibular, dental, axial and appendicular traits from a sample of Middle and Late Pleistocene hominids. The upshot is that Trinkaus found twice as many derived features in modern humans (relative to early and middle Pleistocene Homo than he found in Neandertals…