Re: Ape fossil record

Patricia Lynn Sothman (
23 Aug 1995 21:53:20 GMT

: >Not much money has been allocated to this research on fossil simians,
: >has it? And whatever bones have been accidentally discovered have been
: >mostly ignored once they were labeled non-humanoid, like that box of
: >junk in which Clark recently found the ankle bone and apish foot.

On the contrary, there are a lot of long term projects which have been
funded on primate evolution, for example the Fayum in Egypt. Most of the
time, primates do not comprise the majority of fauna from a site. Also,
even for some experienced paleontologists it is difficult to identify
post-cranial remains since most hominid species have be named based upon
craniodental remains.

: You have to remember how fossils are found, as well. Almost all the african hominid fossiles were found
: by somebody walking over vast stretches of eroded sediments.

: To find an ape fossil, you not only have to be in a place where they once lived and were fossilized,
: but you also have to have erosion to bring the fossils to the surface just at the time your survey is
: being done. Forests are generally depositional environments, not erosion zones. If there are no fossils
: visible, the odds of finding them are vanishingly small.

: Also, they have to be there when you are. If Lucy had eroded out a year or two earlier, she might have been destroyed by
: various mechanisms (such as trampling by goats) before a keen-eyed paleoanthropologist spotted her!

You also forgot that if scientists use extant models for chimps and
gorillas, these are mainly forest dwelling. Forest floors and sediments
are usually acidic and are not conducive to fossilization.

Patricia Sothman
Dept. Anthropology
Washington University, St. Louis