Here We Go Again, New Fossils “Shatter Human Evolution Theory”

According to both National Georgraphic and the BBC new fossils – this time of some molars and a canine – are being announced in the journal Nature (I’m in the process of tracking the article down and will say more after I read it).

070822-fossil-ape_big.jpgPhoto from National Geographic
The fossils belong to a new species of gorilla, also being announced, Chororapithecus abyssinicus, which date to approximately 10 million years ago. According to BBC article:

Based on genetic evidence, gorillas and humans were thought to have split away from a common ancestor about eight million years ago.
The 10 million-year age of the fossils led the research team to suggest that the split must have happened earlier than 10.5 million years ago.
If correct, molecular and DNA studies will need to be revisited.

There is some skepticism because the finds are kind of a slim facade to overturn current dates for the split between gorillas, chimps and humans. As Richard Potts points out in the National Geographic article:

“They have a really good case that this has a gorillalike diet,” Potts said. “The question is: Is it a gorilla?
“Maybe the similarities of the tooth are due to the similarities of a diet of a different line of ape.”

And Peter Andrews says in the BBC article:

“It is stretching the evidence to base a time scale for the evolution of the great apes on this new fossil.”
Professor Andrews believes the structures found on the teeth could be related to the diet of the animal.
He added: “These structures appear on at least three independent lineages of apes, including gorillas, and they could relate to a dietary shift rather than indicating a new genetic trait.”

For more on what can be learned from teeth you can read What Teeth Can Tell Us About Human Evolution, A response to Uncommon Descent: Part One
Speaking of UD, how long do you suppose it will be before they trumpet this as evolution’s “Waterloo”?
DING!DING!DING! We have some winners folks. Note the complete lack of understanding of the issues involved. Oh, well, at least one of them seems to have read the article – even if he didn’t understand it.

9 Responses

  1. I saw that headline in National Geo and threw up on my shoes.

  2. Me too. I’m thinking of suing National Geo for the cost of a pair of new shoes…

  3. Well, hominid fossils from that age (10 Myr ago) are so scarce, that any of them make news. But it is difficult for any individual discovery to shatter the well based phylogenetic tree putting gorillas are the sister group of the chimp-human lineage. BTW, genetic molecular clocks can only offer absolute chronologies when compared to absolute chronologies of fossil remains.

  4. I have it on good authority that a fine pair of shoes is worth 5 million dollars, and the pain and stress of vomiting is worth another 10.

  5. PZ wrote

    I have it on good authority that a fine pair of shoes is worth 5 million dollars, and the pain and stress of vomiting is worth another 10.

    Actually, my “shoes” were Tony Lama boots, easily worth $10mm.

  6. Mine were just sneakers but I’ll take the 5 million…

  7. Some MSM have picked it up. Now it’s the ape-human split being pushed back, which apparently seems to conflate the issue a bit. Rather it’s the chimp-gorilla split and humans are still an ape.

  8. Evolution is a theory, start thinking outside the box and quit spending so much money trying to prove it. let it go.

  9. Science is in the business of proving theories and this one is very well conformed. Thanks, by the way, for addressing the points made in the post…

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