Re: DISCOVER/Neanderthal/Homo Sap.

4 Sep 1995 15:38:11 GMT

In article <42dplj$>, (Erin Miller) writes:
>In article <>,
>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.

That's true. But the same could be said of modern humans and Neandertals,
could it not? The skulls are definitely different, but, postcranially
differences are largely that of size and bone thickness, as far as I
have heard. If you know of something more, I'd really like to know
about it.

> 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.?)

So, are you saying that these animals are a better model to go by? Or are
you arguing that there is really no way to determine from skeletal remains
alone whether any two animals are in the same or different species?

> 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.

Again, this would seem to indicate we cannot classify any fossils with

> 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...)

Also, with humans, you really do have to contend with sexual selection.
Certain cultural groups might prefer mating only with each other, and so
on. So, in that sense, the selectively bred dogs might be a better model
than wild animals. Humans do tend to be (somewhat, and some more than
others!) selective about who they breed with.

> 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.

No, I agree. You cannot take either example as a general rule. It is
difficult (though I don't believe impossible) to classify fossils that
have no living models. That is why I am arguing that the only sure way
to "split" would be along the lines of functional differences. Radical
differences in anatomy, to the point that they obviously functioned
differently, would mean the creatures were occuping different econiches,
using different subsistence strategies, and so on. Splitting any other
way just invites contention and confusion (and I have to teach this stuff
to freshmen!).
I would like to comment further on this, but I just had company show up
at the door! I'll take it up again in the next post.

Caroline Cooper
Dept. of Anthropology
SUNY at Albany