Re: Parasites and paleoanthropology

Keith Norris (keith@GECKO.BIOL.WITS.AC.ZA)
Sat, 20 Jul 1996 10:32:34 LOCAL (Nick Maclaren) wrote:

>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

Exactly my point. It would certainly not disprove the savannah hyp. though.
Savannahs do not, indeed cannot, exist with a high number of animals without a
lakeside component. Be careful of confusing the issues, as no animal *needs*
to be aquatic to use aquatic food, think of the bears that catch fish. We may
have a large number of water-borne parasites without living in the water. If
it was necessary for us to be aquatic to carry these parasites, would we not
have lost them by now?

Keith Norris