Re: Speciation - how do you know?

Paul Crowley (
Fri, 27 Sep 96 17:48:19 GMT

In article <52bmh8$> "HARRY R. ERWIN" writes:

> 1. A distinctive toolkit that shows site-specificity, but evolved slowly,
> 2. No throwing weapons. Weapons use involved close contact with the target.
> 3. A typical physique that would make any rugby forward green with envy.
> 4. Inflated facial structure.
> 5. No evidence until very late for decoration.
> 6. Site organization unspecialized. Little evidence for workspace
> organization.
> 7. Preferred site locations in protected areas, whereas Cro Magnon
> preferred locations with long-range visibility.

> --very strong, neither mobile nor fast
> --omnivorous
> --bone fractures common and similar to those of rodeo riders
> --no evidence for thrown weapons.

Thanks for all the extra data, but I don't think it helps.

> Compare those with the predatory strategies of cats, sabre-tooths, bears,
> and dogs, and you see evidence for a short-range ambush hunter that
> specialized on large prey. In some ways, an ecological vicar of a bear or
> sabre-toothed cat.

Ambush hunters rely on (1) a short and intense burst of high speed
and (2) overwhelming power or weaponry. They can't afford the risk
of injury and either kill quickly or not at all.

Neanderthals had neither (1) nor (2). Even if they managed to
surprise a quadruped, there is no way they could have caught it or
held it down. If it felt threatened (IMO somewhat unlikely) it
would be off like a shot. And, unless it was small, they could not
have killed it quickly. (Perhaps you could suggest how they might
kill a large bovid quickly.) Furthermore, the risk of injury to
the hominid would have been unacceptably high. A upright biped is
extraordinarily vulnerable. One charge by a quadruped is likely
to break its bones.

> You need some working hypotheses. Neanderthals are gone, so to
> reconstruct their behavior, you have to ask questions of their fossils.

There are, in effect, no working hypotheses about major aspects of
human anatomy - the origins of bipedalism, nakedness or sweating.
Why insist on one here? It's a particularly bad one, and IMHO
the fossil evidence is strongly *against* it. The evidence for
hunting by any hominid before 100 Kya is weak. Neanderthals are
about the least likely of the hominids to have engaged in it. The
speculation derives almost entirely from Victorian imaginations.