A Couple Of Annoying Things About The Ardipithecus Papers

Although I am quite excited about Ardipithecus (more about the actual substance of the papers later) finally being published, there are a couple of things that really annoy the living daylights out of me.

First, in both the papers and the specials about them, White and his group refer to the common ancestor of chimps and humans and the common ancestor of that clade with the gorillas, which is fine except when they seem to commingle the two. At some points it is not at all clear which they are referring to – the two are different critters.

Second, the whole “this proves humans didn’t evolve from chimpanzees as previously thought” stuff. I mean, really? No one in paleoanthropology has thought anything like that for a long, long time. Chimps have been evolving for 5-6 million years and no one thinks that extent chimps and extent humans would look much like their common ancestor – cladistic reconstruction of the ancestral condition for both would indicate that. To be fair, a number of people have used chimp and bonobo behavior as guides for interpreting the behavior of earlier hominins. White and company themselves do that, so I am not sure what the point is.

Third, and this is admittedly very nitpicky, but “Ardi”, surely a better nickname was available. I mean, why don’t we call Australopithecus afarensis “Affi” and Homo habilis “Habi” and Mortopithecus “Mori”. Seriously, it’s like getting a dog and naming it “Dog”.


9 Responses

  1. “Second, the whole “this proves humans didn’t evolve from chimpanzees as previously thought” stuff. I mean, really?”

    I can’t agree more. It drove me nuts esp. when most newscasters kept saying that the discovery proves that we did not evolve from a chimp.

    Serious, did people actually think we evolved from chimpanzees?

  2. prancingpapio, I did until about 10 years ago, when I started checking into this whole evolution thing because of the creationist claims. Of course, now I know better.

  3. In your defense Mike, it was 10 years ago. 🙂

  4. Serious, did people actually think we evolved from chimpanzees?

    Back in the dim and distant early history of paleoanthropology, yes, kind of. I’m sure, at least some of that in specials were directed at what I call “folk’ concepts of evolution. Although the statements that annoyed me were in the scientific papers themselves.

  5. Nobody actually believed that humans evolved from chimps, but they reconstructed the CLCA (hehe) as a knuckle-walking, large-bodied, terrestiral animal with a polygynous mating system. If it walks like a chimp and mates like a chimp… it’s a chimp by another name.

  6. Being an acronym-challenged person with little or no acronym memory space left, just what does “FCD” mean?

  7. I joined. LOL.

  8. Ayn Rand challenges a creationist who thinks Ardipithecus disproves evolution.

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