Re: An alternative to ST and AAT

Phillip Bigelow (
Sat, 30 Nov 1996 16:08:22 -0800

John Waters wrote:
I earlier expounded:
> > How many different species of each hominid can we
> find?

> JW: What do you mean by each hominid here? Could the
> question also read *How many different species of hominid
> can we find*. Or is that a different question?

The way you wrote it. It was poor grammar on my part.

> > How different from each other are these distinct
> species?
> JW: At the current rate, it seems that virtually every
> fossil hominid will be classified as a separate species.
> Are you calling for a re-examination of the rules of
> classification here? I have often wondered about these
> Paleontological species.

There are so few really good hominid specimens available
that what you say is true. The problem is that if we
haven't yet discovered a particular lucy bone, and if
such an element is found, later, all by itself, who knows whether
that element is from A. afarensis, or from a new species?
Taxonomically speaking, this discovery process is messy as

> >
> > 2) Analysis of the raw data (on-going, and much to be
> done)
> > What is the phylogeny of the whole group of fossil
> primates,
> > based on skeletal structures?

> JW: This appears to exclude extant taxa. Is this
> deliberate?

Well, not deliberate, exactly. Let's just say, postponed.
As far as PALEO-anthropology is concerned, all we are likely
to find are hominid bones, their tracks, and their tools.
So the *only* reliable comparison to make between species is,
of course, bones and tools.
_Gray's Anatomy_ is still the classic text for modern human
anatomy. The work that needs to be done is not with humans,
but with the bones and tools of our ancestors.

> > What are the basic biomechanics of the locomotion of
> > each fossil taxa? Are they different between
> species?
> > Is there a temporal trend in biomechanical changes,
> > or does the data appear to indicate random change?

> JW: Do you think you can reach any useful conclusions if
> you exclude extant taxa?

No. But only the biomechanics-information that can be extrapolated
over to fossil bones should be used. I do think that comparing
the biomechanics of such animals as ostriches and humans is valuable.
But these results need to be used in a way that can be extrapolated
over to the bones of fossil hominids. If the data between
extant and extinct taxa is not directly comparible, it is useless