Re: Parasites and paleoanthropology

Nick Maclaren (
19 Jul 1996 17:41:05 GMT

In article <keith.85.000C8262@GECKO.BIOL.WITS.AC.ZA>, keith@GECKO.BIOL.WITS.AC.ZA (Keith Norris) writes:
|> Paul Crowley <> wrote:
|> >I suggest that a thorough and wide-ranging study of h.s.s.
|> >parasites (and their evolution) would show that fairly dense,
|> >localised and sizeable hominid populations have inhabited areas
|> >close to standing bodies of fresh water in the tropics at or near
|> >sea-level for many hundreds of thousands of years. In other words,
|> >such a study would go to disprove hunting/savannah theories of
|> >human evolution.
|> No it would not. The savannah theory does not mean arid, without water.
|> Early man would have needed water from some place, not so? Just because we
|> have parasites associated with water does not mean we had an aquatic phase,
|> just that we utelised water for drinking and eating (i.e. fish etc.). I
|> suspect that you are trying to propogate the AAT. I suggest you read the
|> letters pages of New Scientist directly after Hardy's original article if this
|> is the case. One of them addresses this problem.

Hang on, now. You are being a bit unfair. Yes, a survey of human
parasites ALONE would not prove anything, but comparing the number
of our parasites that have a water-borne stage with other animals
from the savannah and lakesides might. This, of course, assumes
that there is a significant difference in type of parasite between
savannah and lakeside animals!

Note that I say "might" - I know nothing about what the proportions
are, or even whether they have been estimated (let alone analysed).
My remark is only about the statistical possibilities.

And, naturally, the data might equally well confirm the savannah
hypothesis rather than discounting it :-)

Nick Maclaren,
University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory,
New Museums Site, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QG, England.
Tel.: +44 1223 334761 Fax: +44 1223 334679