Lumping at Dmanisi

Palaeontologists at Dmanisi, an increasingly famous village in Georgia, have made some quite interesting discoveries: a small collection of early Homo skeletons from people living in the same place at the same time that are nevertheless fairly variable in appearance, as exemplified by the recently-described “skull 5.” The usual rules of population dynamics say that you can’t have different species that have the same niche (i.e. they have same shtick – they live in the same way, eat the same food etc) living in the same place – one of them will quickly win out and exclude the others. If this hasn’t happened – and it doesn’t seem to have at Dmanisi – we must conclude that the organisms are or were of the same species. Continue reading

Variation Within the Human Kind

Well that was fast: in the form of New African Fossil Confirms Early Human Variations Brian Thomas already has an article on the new Homo rudolfensis fossils. The standard creationist strategy when it comes to hominin fossils is to obfuscate, claim that all fossils can be neatly divided into ‘human’ and ‘ape,’ and then obfuscate again for good measure. Insinuating the possibility of fraud by bringing up past examples, claiming deceit or other bad practise in the fossil discovery and excavation, and arguing that this or that trait cannot be determined from the evidence are all tactics that play a role in the obfuscation. Thomas’ new article is textbook, except that he doesn’t seem to want to be completely pinned down over which side of the divide the new fossils lie on.

The cover of the August 9, 2012 issue of the journal Nature featured the reconstructed face of newly-discovered human-like fossil bones described by Meave Leakey and colleagues in their report.

Indeed it did, or close enough anyway: Continue reading