Re: Australopithecus, Homo erectus, single species hypothesis

JP Bailhe (71202.2712@CompuServe.COM)
19 Feb 1995 15:07:30 GMT

Johanson grouped what would have previously been considered
different species into one species Australopithecus afarensis.
The specimens bore charactersistics of three distinct species. If
I remember correctly, Australopithecus (gracile type),
Ramapithecus (Lucy), and a third whose name slips my mind
but appears to have been the species found earlier near the
Laetoli footprint site. I believe a jaw of this latter species
had been found earlier and named something like Meganthropus
since it was comparatively large.

Anyway, Johanson and his group ultimately decided these specimens
at Hadar belonged to one species, A. afarensis, a decision that
was hotly debated at first, but has so far won out.

Johanson's arguments are persuasive, but it seems there should
remain some doubt about about the correctness of this taxonomy.
For example, the differences between Lucy and Ramapithecus are
perhaps small enough to be variants of time and place. The
Megahtropus jaw is pretty squarely Meganthropus and the gracile
Austrlopithecine specimens, though a million years older than
than the archetype, were, I think, consistent.

This is cloudy water, but at the present time, I don't think the
single species idea is getting much support.

JP Bailhe