Re: Questions on _Lucy's Child_

Jim Foley (
5 May 1995 15:00:19 GMT

In article <>,
James Nicoll <> wrote:
> I just read _Lucy's Child_ by Johanson and Shreeve.
> The short stature of the hominid J&co dug up in the course of the
>book appeared to bother Johanson, because it means that a substancial height
>gain had to occur in a short time (hundreds to thousands of millenia). What
>degree of size changes have accured in other species over the same amount
>of time? I seem to recall a few dwarf species of large animals (Deer and I
>think rhinos) isolated on islands appeared to have evolved relatively rapidly
>(millenia, I think), but have increases in size occured as quickly?

Johanson et al's 1987 paper on OH 62 also suggested that a punctuated
equilibrium event may have occurred between OH 62 (at 1.8 my) and Homo
erectus at 1.6 my. This is only true if you are assuming (or hoping)
that OH 62 is on the direct human line. I think it is more probable
that the transition to H. erectus had already occurred or was occurring
while OH 62 lived, which would put it on a side branch that has since
become extinct. Especially since I think there are some fossils
assigned to erectus which are older than 1.6 my, maybe as much as 1.9 or
2.0 my. I'll have to check on this at home; these older fossils may be
of post-cranial remains, in which case it's harder to be certain what
species they came from.

> Is the account of Mary Leakey damaging the Laetoli footprints
>accurate? There seems to be a minor amount of illwill between Johanson
>and Leakeys -- how large a grain of salt should I take with his accounts
>concerning the Leakeys?

A very touchy topic. Sadly, I suspect these claims have made it almost
impossible to examine the question of 2 or 3 individuals without being
forced to take sides in the Leakey-Johanson feud. I have been told by
an anthropologist that most people agree beyond a doubt there were three
individuals there. But the trail that is claimed to be overprinted is
not of as good quality as the other one. I saw a cast of about 5 feet
of the trail last weekend at Boston's Museum of Science, and the larger
prints (the ones I saw, anyway) are quite smeared. I gather from other
sources that the evidence for a third individual is quite subtle, so I
think there is still a possibility that only two individuals were
involved (which does not mean I think that Mary Leakey botched the

Jim Foley Symbios Logic, Fort Collins (303) 223-5100 x9765
The clinching proof of my reasoning is that I will cut anyone who argues
further into dogmeat. -- Sir Geoffery de Tourneville, ca 1350 A.D.