Re: Who Killed the Australopithecines?

2 Apr 1995 01:05:26 GMT

In article <>, (BARD) writes:
>In article <3lf34k$>,
>Jim Foley <> wrote:
>>In article <>, BARD <> wrote:
>>> Everything being equal, they were better equipped to survive
>>> than either ape or man; yet they perished... How and by whom?
>>> Bard
>>On what grounds do you say this? I have never read anything that would
>>suggest it, and it doesn't even make much sense to say such a thing.
>>Chimps are probably better at living on fruit in jungles,
>>australopithecines were probably better at living on nuts and berries in
>>a savannah environement. Neither are "better" in some absolute sense of
>>the word.
>>I'm also curious about your earlier messages about proving that piths
>>are extinct. What more proof would you want than the fact that they're
>>not found? (A fossilized autobiography of the last living
>>australopithecine?) We can be 99.999999% sure they're gone, and that's
>>good enough for me.
>>Jim Foley Symbios Logic, Fort Collins
>> (303) 223-5100 x9765
> Evolution suggests a progression in adaptability. Working backwards
> we see the Pith's hands and feet were more evolved than the chimpanzee;
> the chimp's more so than the baboon; the baboon more than the
> tarsier, etc...
> Piths could do more things, travel greater distances, eat a wider
> variety of food, employ more clever ways to get this food; evade
> danger better, and yet the chimpanzee survives and the Pith
> doesn't.
> Why?
> And... not finding something is not "99.99999" proof it
> doesn't exit. In this decade alone several species thought
> long extinct have been discovered still with us.

Well, okay, since you seem to be serious I'll throw out a couple of reasons.
1) Habitat. Chimps stayed in the forest, got the better resources -- piths
got forced out on the savanna. You weren't specific about which Pith you
were talking about, of course (there's at least 5 of them now). Some were
extremely specialized, and so it's not surprising they're no longer with us.
All of them had smaller canines than apes (well, afarensis was pretty close &
ramidus might be an ape, but the others were smaller fanged). Probably less
strength judging from ape/human comparisons today (& piths were smaller than
modern humans). So, I'd say they were left with the less choice habitat,
possibly not of their own free will.
2) Brain power. Didn't have alot. Out on the savanna they would encounter
lots of selection pressures, more than in the forest. Later larger brained
hominids would have the advantage.
The piths did have a mechanical advantage over later hominids in the area
of speed, so I am given to understand. The wider hips of later hominids
slowed them down. However, the piths were not bipedal as we are today, the
modern striding gait did not come along till erectus -- those were the ones
who could walk anywhere (& proved it by doing just that). The piths, over all,
just couldn't measure up to the competition. I think your hero worship might
be a bit misplaced. (Though, I admit, they are a fascinating group)
Incidently, you might want to read up on chimps. They are quite remarkable
and intelligent in their own right. Their diet is quite varied, in fact some
of the piths were much more specialized in their preferences than chimps are.
So, I wouldn't sell them short. They would be a formidable competitor to YOU
were you dropped off in their home range without anything but your teeth and