Lucy in 3.4 million-year-old cross-species cave tryst
New homonin fossil discovered
The statement from the abstract is as prosaic as it gets: “A newly discovered partial hominin foot skeleton from eastern Africa indicates the presence of more than one hominin locomotor adaptation at the beginning of the Late Pliocene epoch.”
The implication, however, is profound: potentially a new species of hominin has been discovered in 3.4 million-year-old Ethiopian fossils, launching either a new direction in the study of human evolution, or at the very least, a fabulous argument about whether the fossils are or are not a separate species.
A new study published in Nature suggests that Lucy – the female specimen famous for identifying Australopithecus afarensis – didn’t represent the only line of hominins.
Unlike Australopithecus afarensis, the as-yet-unnamed specimen retains a characteristic not of upright-walking humans but a tree-dweller: an opposable big toe, designed for grasping tree branches.
According to the New York Times, the foot is similar to those of the species Ardipithecus ramidus, known from 4.4 million-year-old fossils from Ethiopia.
Of key importance in the find is that it demonstrates that humans probably didn’t take a single path to bipedal locomotion; rather, various lines seem to have evolved, with only one – us – the eventual winning line. ®
Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.
>>where are the useful mutations happening in the human race today?
The assumption that there are no "useful mutations" for humans today is faulty, there are mutations happing all the time, from the ability to handle very fatty diets, tetrachromacy, short twitch run muscles, but what is useful in the context of evolution?
How many of these things will be added to the evolutionary pressure survivability? Humans no longer have evolutionary pressure that we used to have, we have welfare states, choice on reproduction etc. a "weak" genetic trait no longer will add towards the ability to pass on the gene any more than a "strong" genetic trait inhibits it. Although it's a sterotype, poor, undereducated families often have more children earlier than better off, better educated families, so our "evolutionary pressue" now favours poverty and lack of education.
It matters nothing to evolution if you are the smartest, fittest ape unless you pass your genes on, conversely, die early, be unhealthy, uninteligent, but if you have had 10 kids you have done well for evolution.
>>How many mutations do we need to get where we are going
This is a common misunderstanding, there is no "get where we are going", there is no "destination", we are where we are because of evolutionary pressures, we will be where we end up because of evolutionary pressures, it's not survival of the "fittest" (a common misquote), it's survival of the best fit - get in a tank with a shark, you won't do well, put a shark in a forest and you'll do better than the shark, it's adaping to the environment, not be "more evolved" cockroaches are an almost perfect animal (for their environment).
>>how many failed mutations do we expect to find?
There's no such thing as a "failed" mutation, if it is useful (helps us pass genes) it's more likely to be kept, if it's not useful it "may" be kept but is likely to fade away, if it interferes with our ability to breed it will be lost.
Re: A foot skeleton?
You think they're jumping the gun, declaring this evolutionary step from a sole example?
Well if they're wrong, they'll get a shoeing from their peers.
Re: Wait for the creationists...
"There still are NO transitional fossils."
um ... ALL fossils are transitional between some two species, and Evolution doesn't actually need fossils at all in order to be seen as a factual explanation of speciation, the fossils are an unneeded bonus.