Re: Lucy's current status -- in the fossil record or out?

debra mckay (
Fri, 27 Dec 1996 20:21:45 GMT (Susan S. Chin) wrote:

>"From Lucy to Language" by Don Johanson and Blake Edgar (Simon &
>Schuster, 1996) is an excellent reference book documenting human
>evolution from Ardipithecus ramidus to Australopithecus anamensis all
>the way to anatomically modern humans. Along the way, you encounter a lot
>more hominid species than I've been exposed to... Homo ergaster, Homo
>rudolfensis, Homo heidelbergensis....
>What I'd like to know is, how valid are these new species designations?
>The discoverers of these specimens on the whole didn't assign them to the
>names above... so how does one even go about "officially" changing the
>designation if the original discoverers who published the finds are no
>longer around? Or is it just "the consensus is" therefore that's what
>we'll call it?

I'm not sure I understand your question. Are you asking how valid the
names are? Or are the specimens different enough from other things to
warrant new names? Both are valid questions, BTW. In the first case
(and anyone can jump in here if I get this balled up (-:) someone can
propose any name as long as it is "valid" in the sense of not breaking
any of the official rules of taxonomic nomenclature, and this sort of
thing seems to go on all the time in paleoanthropology. I'm not sure
whether there is some formal way of making it "official", apart from
someone saying in a paper somewhere "I propose the name thus-and-so for this
particular taxon, and here's why" (I've been told that _Australopithecus ramidus_
is virtually the only taxon whose naming was *not* disputed by someone
somewhere); just lately I read an article in which Brigit Senut has tried to
resurrect an old name "Praeanthropus" for A. anamensis--this is pertinent
to the question because the name is perfectly valid and is available; the
only question is whether anyone else will agree with her! At any
rate, once the fossil has been described in a journal, *anyone* can propose
a name for it.

As for the second--it has a lot to do with how different you decide things should be
before you call them something else. Some don't want to see too much taxonomic
diversity, which I think stems from the bad old days of the discipline when
practically every fragment of bone got its own generic as well as specific name.
Others believe that the hominid family tree is pretty bushy and the taxonomy
should reflect this. Most folks fall somewhere in between, I think, but everyone
is aware that it is not a simple problem.

The name _H. heidelbergensis_ was proposed in 1908 for the Mauer mandible; _H.
rudolfensis_ was proposed for the taxon with KNM-ER 1470 as the type specimen
in 1986 by some obscure Russian paleoanthropologist, so by te rules of
nomenclature if ER 1470 is separated from _H. habilis_ it is _H. rudolfensis_.
_H. ergaster_ was proposed (I think) by Colin Groves, was it not?