missing links

J E Hawcroft (J.E.Hawcroft@shef.ac.uk)
Mon, 08 Jul 1996 14:26:31 +0100

White et al have already found something far older than Lucy (2.8 million
years old) and Lucy's neighbours, the Hadar afarensis group (3.4 million)
in the form of Ardipithecus ramidius, announced about 2 years ago in
Nature and dated approx. 4.5 million years old. They had a small piece of
occipital then and said it proved upright stance from its orientation.
Apparently they've now found a Lucy-style skeletal assemblage but haven't
published it yet AFAIK.
Personally I find the term "missing link" a bit incongrous these days,
since we seem to have more links than we can handle already. In the old
days, palaeoanthropology was a simple tale of one hominid leading to
another and one day, it was hoped, we'd link a hominid that personified
the link between humans and apes. Nowadays we've (a) got loads of
hominids that seem to be contemporaneous and it's all very confusing and
(b) we've realised that if we find a fossil that dates to the time of the
human/ape split, it won't look like a half-human/ half-ape, but like our
common ancestor - and we don't know what that looked like.