Re: DISCOVER/Neanderthal/Homo Sap.

Erin Miller (
3 Sep 1995 21:52:34 -0500

In article <>,
H. M. Hubey <> wrote:
> (Gerrit Hanenburg) writes:
>>most likely to be preserved in the fossil record.The differences in
>>skeletal anatomy between Neanderthals and modern humans (e.g.Cro-Magnon)
>>are remarkable,in particular the skull.On this basis we have some reason to
>>belief that they were different species.
>Are these differences as large as the differences between, say
>a dachshund and an Afghan Hound, or between a bulldog and a
>Kangal, or a chiuaua and a Great Dane ?

They are "different" differences. Dogs have been rapidly and artificially
bred to create extreme differences, at the same time as intentionally
keeping them "breedable." Also in dogs, the skeletal differences are
largely (tho not 100%) of the skull. When you look at the postcranial
skeleton of a Great Dane vs. a Yorkie, the differences are largely of size
and not much else.
To perhaps explain with a counter example: there are LOTS of
non-domestic animals that are not only separate species, but separate
genus, that most certainly do not interbreed (not only do they not produce
fertile offspring, they do not breed period unless under captive
constraints - and even then often not). BUT, these species are practically
indistinguishable on a skeletal level, certainly to all but a few
scientists who make a point of studying the differences. These differences
are FAR FAR less than that between _H. sapiens_ and _H. (s.?)
Can most people tell the difference between the skeletons of a common
marmoset, a lion tamarin, and a cotton-top tamarin? The skeletal
differences are *minimal* to the utmost, yet none of these primates are
even in the same genus.
This is the general arguement for "splitters:" There are so many species
that have almost no anatomical differences but do not interbreed, if you
*do* see anatomcial differences, then they most likely *are* different
species (my interpretation of Tattersall's reasoning, anyhow).
But the counter-argument of the "lumpers" is that humanoids are not like
most other animals, and spread out enough and lived in isolated areas
enough, that they could have developed "racial" skeletal differences, and
still be the same species. In the sense that dogs and cats are
domesticated, they were domesticated by humans. And where ever humans are
involved, this type of variation is a distinct possibility (well, there
are many other elements too, but for this particular argument...)
So it is not so simple as taking an anecdotal example (ie: domestic
dogs) and trying to apply it as the rule. That is also the reason why one
cannot apply the arguement that "they lived in proximity for a long time,
so they must have had sex." No more so than a common marmoset would want
to 'have sex' with a lion tamarin.


"On the internet nobody knows you're a dog ...
but damn if everyone won't know what your cat looks like." -fatz

Erin Miller
University of Chicago / Anthropology Department /