Re: Ape fossil record

CB (
3 Sep 1995 14:40:34 GMT

In message <41v5s4$> - "Todd C. Rae" <
> writes:
:>I have a real problem with the idea that forest environments are bad for
:>fossilization. Many of the well-known fossil primate sites seem to be
:>from forested areas (Fayum, Songhor, Rusinga). After all, where do most
:>primates live? If it were the case that we weren't gettting forested
:>enviroments sampled in the fossil record, we wouldn't have any PRIMATES,
:>full stop. This clearly isn't the case, so the explanation must lie
:>But here's the real kicker; how would we recognise a fossil chimp/gorilla
:>if we found one? Think about this in terms of what commonly preserves
:>and what is anatomically diagnostic.

I would probably go for the teeth, since the common dental formula ( 2-1-2-3 )
has changed little, ( this confirmed through not only the Australopithecines,
but also through Proconsul ) as well as other morphological variants, such as
cusp pattern ( y-5 vs. x-5 or x-4 molar )

Its not that Forest's themselves are particularly bad, ( although the higher
acidity of the soil tends to disintegrate skeletal material quickly ) its the
things living in the forest that cause a problem. Something dies and they
just haul it off in pieces. What may have been preserved if left alone is
now in the stomachs, ( or mouths ) of a whole host of organisms.

We did an experiment in an Anthropology class to this effect where a carcass
was hauled into a lightly wooded area. Each day we returned to note what
was missing and what still remained. After 5 days hardly anything was left,
just a few bits of bone and scraps of skin.
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