Re: homo species

Ralph L Holloway (
Thu, 13 Jul 1995 00:50:07 -0400

Phil Nicholls is converting to "splitting"? Well, in fact, maybe
Tattersall is right. My feeling is that if you sampled hominids in the
Ituri rain forest (pgymies) and used Abos as a comparison, you might well
be reasonably sure that these were different species. (Of course in this
example, the two groups are pretty widely separated, maybe too far ..).
In the Neandertal situation we are comparing Western european "Classic"
N's with modern H. Sapiens, when we do have representatives in West Asia
and Eastern Europe, which while not exactly intermediary, cannot rule out
species differences, i.e., they could be a mixed set of populations. I
always have trouble with the argument that Tattersall and others present
based on degree of morphological difference. There are populations such
as sibling species that appear morphologically identical and there
morphologies so wildly different, i.e., great danes and Dauschunds, being
the same species. In these cases we can test whether or not the
populations are reproductively isolated, but with the fossil record we
are in no such position. Just what are the features that seem so
extremely different between ourselves and Neandertals that have converted
you, Phil?
As for Homo erectus, you are right, no one seems to have a firm
grasp of what is going where, i.e., Homo erectus, rudolphensis, ergaster,
heidelbergensis, etc., etc. I was looking at the Turkana WT 15000 skull
and mandible today because I had goofed on its age in an earlier post,
and I was struck at how similar it looked to the Heidelberg jaw...braod
vertical ramus, large coracoid process, similar teeth, albeit somewhat
larger(?). I don't think that these morphologies are all that dissimilar,
so I keep my lumping bias and regard Turkana and ER 3733 and #883 as Homo
erectus, one species, showing nothing more than time and geographical
variation, i.e., "racial" variation.
Ralph Holloway.