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back to article Lucy in 3.4 million-year-old cross-species cave tryst

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 …

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Wait for the creationists...

3....2....1......

Don't ya just love science?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait for the creationists...

Not sure why this fossil would bother the Creationuts any more than all the other fossils.

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Re: Wait for the creationists...

Incomming Faith over Facts assult

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Trollface

Re: Wait for the creationists...

Your answer, courtesy of 'Friends'

PHOEBE: Go ahead and scoff. You know, there're a lot of things that I don't believe in, but that doesn't mean they're not true.

JOEY: Such as?

PHOEBE: Like crop circles, or the Bermuda triangle, or evolution?

ROSS: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What, you don't, uh, you don't believe in evolution?

PHOEBE: I don't know, it's just, you know...monkeys, Darwin, you know, it's a, it's a nice story, I just think it's a little too easy.

ROSS: Too easy? The process of every living thing on this planet evolving over millions of years from single-celled organisms, too easy?

PHOEBE: Yeah, I just don't buy it.

ROSS: Uh, excuse me. Evolution is not for you to buy, Phoebe. Evolution is scientific fact like the air we breathe, like gravity.

PHOEBE: Ok, don't get me started on gravity.

ROSS: You uh, you don't believe in gravity?

PHOEBE: Well, it's not so much that you know, like I don't believe in it, you know, it's just...I don't know, lately I get the feeling that I'm not so much being pulled down as I am being pushed.

ROSS: How can you not believe in evolution?

PHOEBE: Just don't. Look at this funky shirt!

ROSS: Pheebs, I have studied evolution my entire adult life. Ok, I can tell you, we have collected fossils from all over the world that actually show the evolution of different species, ok? You can literally see them evolving through time.

PHOEBE: Really? You can actually see it?

ROSS: You bet. In the U.S., China, Africa, all over.

PHOEBE: See, I didn't know that.

ROSS: Well, there you go.

PHOEBE: Huh. So now, the real question is, who put those fossils there, and why?

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FAIL

Don't ya just love science?

If it were actually science instead of fairy stories.

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Re: Wait for the creationists...

If only all creationists were like Phoebe...

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Alert

Re: Wait for the creationists...

The Bible simply states that God created everything. It does not state how. Evolution and creation are not therefore two alternatives.

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Holmes

Re: Wait for the creationists...

The bible certainly does state a very specific order of creation of stuff, and also quite a few "how"s (adam from a pile of dust, eve from adam's rib). And the timeframe is a bit contracted, but hey 7 days or 7 billion years, it's still 7 right?

Sure, it's possible for "God" to have set up all the gubbins necessary for the big bang plus carefully calculated constants for weak force, strong force etc and started it off just so that everything around us is now as we see it.... but (1) that scenario is both unprovable and indistinguishable from a "no-God" scenario and (2) it's a "God" scenario that is not really espoused by almost any God-believers anyway.

The bible is full of an astounding amount of rubbish tucked in between the religious wars, genocide, infanticide, homophobia and sexual abuse, although I have to admit there's also quite a few bits of good advice.

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Anonymous Coward

As my theology teacher told me...

"Everything in the Bible is true, and some of it actually happened."

The "six-day literal creation" interpretation of the book of Genesis being flogged by a narrow, peculiarly American strain of Protestant Christianity is a relatively recent twist on Biblical interpretation, and is not shared by the majority of believers (present or past) within the Judeo-Christian tradition. As far as I can tell, its main intent is to distract from the core teachings of the Gospel, which are hard to follow and make American Christians particularly uncomfortable.

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Re: As my theology teacher told me...

Y'know... I've often wondered if the Six-Day Creation Story wasn't an ancient version of that bit they used to do in my biology and astronomy classes back in high school, where they use a 24-hour clock analogy to lay out the timelines for the evolution of life and the Universe in order to make it more understandable... you know, the Big Bang happened at midnight, first stars appeared at around 12:30am, our solar system's original accretion disk formed around 6pm the following afternoon, Earth cooled to a temperature conducive to liquid water and life around a quarter to midnight that night...

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Facepalm

Re: Wait for the creationists...

Except of course that you CAN'T actually see it. There still are NO transitional fossils. There are fossils of two species Darwinists BELIEVE evolved one to the other, but no actual transitions. Given the number of transitional species you need, and the numbers within a transitional species for them to evolve, there SHOULD be fossils of transitional species.

And the microbaloney that's supposed to have started it all off is even worse. The whole primordial soup concept has been debunked. Add in trace quantities of O2, in the amount present on Jupiter or Saturn, and the soup oxidizes again before you get amino acids, let alone proteins. And nobody ever synthesized proteins from the aminos, they just waved their hands and left it as an exercise for the student. That's not science. In fact, it sounds to me quite a lot like a man-made religion. It makes certain tautological statements it likes, says trust authority where it has no explanations, and declares non-believers heretics who must be cast out lest they corrupt the body.

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Anonymous Coward

What would...

...in this logic constitute a _real_ "transitional species" ?

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WTF?

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.

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Re: Wait for the creationists...

Creationist logic concerning 'transitional' species has always confused me and not just because they seem to think evolution works like pokemon. Consider this:

1) They believe that everything in the world was created at the beginning (all at once, 7 days, it doesn't make too much difference)

2) They believe all species are static, i.e. that one can't become another through natural selection, mutation, genetic drift, etc.

When looking at the fossil record these two points are obviously contradictory. If you believe species can't evolve then the only logical conclusion is that certain species popped into existence, were around for a couple of million years and then popped out of existence again (sometimes disappearing shortly after a remarkably similar species has just popped into being). This of course is at odds with God creating everything in the beginning.

Creationists do like to only view the fossil record selectively though. I've seen arguments where the fossil record is described as incomplete (which it is), but implying that all species were created at once and we simply haven't found the fossils of [insert species here] (usually Homo Sapiens) that stretch all the way back to the beginning. We do however have lots of fossils of creatures from the past which certainly don't exist today. If what the Creationists say is true then the Earth has been undergoing one giant extinction event for the last 3.7 billion years (or even more terrifyingly, 6000 years).

I really can't get my head around this way of thinking...

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Trollface

Re: Wait for the creationists...

Well played, Sir! Not quite ranty and a little to coherent for my taste. The second paragraph change of subject is particularly good.

We really need a "polite applause" icon

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Re: Wait for the creationists...

Every species is a transitional species.

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Pirate

Re: Wait for the creationists...

My ambition is to BE a transitional fossil... preferably for a new phylum.

Just think how cool that would be... not only immortalised in millions of descendants, but preserved in rock, rediscovered and given a new name after millions of years. Hope there's a good pop song on when I'm dug up!

icon: my photo.

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Trollface

Re: Wait for the creationists...

@Tom13 - I call troll, but I'll bite anyway.

There is no such thing as a transitional species, these are used for convenience / convention. The changes between one species and another are extremely gradual and it needs snapshots hundreds of thousands or millions of years apart to see enough difference to call them different 'species'.

Now here's something for your mind to boggle upon: Your DNA came from your parents, theirs came from their parents and so on ad infinitum. Go far enough back, Lucy could be your Great-^250000 grand-mother. Mine too for that matter

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Trollface

Re: As my theology teacher told me...

There is a saying in the American South, that 'he/she is on biblical time' - meaning somebody taking forfuckingever to get something done.

Throwing it out there...

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I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

Along with the other recent sub-species discoveries in Asia (hobbits, red deer cave people etc), it seems that there have been more evolutionary branches than we used to think. Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?

It reminds me of the recent boom in exo-planet discovery: we've recently become good at finding more stuff, and it's amazing how much more stuff there is to be found.

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Trollface

Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

Eight bones from a foot and we have a new species? See the TED talk on new fossil species being found.

Let's just say that if this was evidence showing that a new nuclear plant design was just as safe as the others, I'd be moving a bit further away.

If we expect millions of tiny genetic changes to contribute to our evolution, how many creatures do we need of the same type to get the mutations required? How many mutations do we need to get where we are going and how many failed mutations do we expect to find? Has anyone actually done the statistical work on this?

With a geometric progression in human reproduction giving us more humans than there have ever been before, where are the useful mutations happening in the human race today? I reckon infra-vision would be a bonus worth keeping [+5 stealth].

The Beeb's report is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17533826

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Boffin

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.

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Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

I'm interested in this research that shows that poverty and lack of education are genetic traits and not societal.

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Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

I'm interested in this research that shows that poverty and lack of education are genetic traits and not societal.

They are societal ... but being thick as two short planks is genetic. If you're somewhat dim with a "bad back" living on incapacity benefit, child benefit and perhaps maintenance BUT you have 15 kids (hence the bad back perhaps); more of your genes are being passed on to the next generation than someone with a Phd in particle physics with only 2 children.

Therefore the evolutionary trend may favour people of lesser intelligence in the long run.

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Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

"With a geometric progression in human reproduction giving us more humans than there have ever been before, where are the useful mutations happening in the human race today?"

You know this already of course, but there are in no way "more humans than there have ever been before". Not by a long shot.

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Trollface

"where are the useful mutations happening in the human race today?"

I think you rather underestimate the scales involved in changing a complex species... either time, and quite a lot of it, or environmental pressure, preferably brutal. In our not so distant past we have nice examples of serious pressure on immune systems; those who didn't do so well when faced with smallpox or the black death haven't passed down many genes to us today.

That aside, as a species we are adept at dealing with all sorts of problems that would have killed us off in the past. This may be a backwards step in the eyes of folk like you (OMG, we're encouraging the spread of genes contributing to bad diseases instead of letting sufferers die childless!) but we have social and technological evolution instead which is many ways is vastly more powerful.

Example: back in the day, an ignorant troll might find themselves burned at the stake by a rampaging mob of anthropologists who'd finally snapped. Thanks to the internet, those trolls can now prosper and reproduce in safety, passing their genes and ideas on to the next generation.

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Holmes

Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

There's something about this argument that doesn't quite fit for me. It's quite well demonstrated that the greatest indicators for large families are rural environments and poverty, this is because in poor and rural settings, children are a resource that can be put to work. For more advanced countries, and richer and highly-educated people the number of children goes down.

So firstly, the trend is selecting for poorer people (not necessarily dumber although there could be a small correlation), and secondly this is a short-term trend. In the long term as poorer countries and areas become richer, the birth rates will stabilise. It's also the case that the smarter and more driven of the 'poor' kids will succeed more and have better reproductive prospects than their less intelligent siblings.

Finally, we're talking here about a trend (small nuclear family) that has developed in the last 2-300 years, in evolutionary terms that is a drop in teh bucket and will hardly be noticed.

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Joke

Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

AHA!! Easy answer! Stop the thickos from breeding!

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Trollface

@Shakje

I'm sure 'the 1%' would like to think that poverty & lack of education are genetic traits and not societal.

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Boffin

Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

>>So firstly, the trend is selecting for poorer people (not necessarily dumber although there could be a small correlation)

Don't forget, there's selection where a trait helps genes to be passed on (larger families), and deselection of a trait which is not required to pass on genes, it's not that "dumbness" is a selected trait (being stupid doesn't help genes being passed on, although there's an argument for teen pregnancies) it's that if you are a human being super inteligent doesn't mean that your genes are more likely to be passed on than being super dumb, it's not a "selected" trait, and don't forget, inteligence has a cost, larger brains, more energy required, if there's no evolutionary advantage and there's a cost to a trait then it naturally becomes "deselected".

Put another way, pretty much any wild animal (excludes pets, farmed etc.) has an evolutionary advantage to being smart enough to stay alive and breed as much as possible, smart enough to avoid a predator, smart enough to find food (it doesn't need to be able to do the times crossword, it needs to be smart enough to stay alive) comparatively "dumb" animals will be eaten or starve.

Humans have no such requirement to be smart, people with a low IQ will find a mate, breed and pass their genes on, they don't need to live to 100, just breed (the earlier and the more the better) evolution doesn't care about quality of life, just the perpetuation of it.

>>It's also the case that the smarter and more driven of the 'poor' kids will succeed more and have better reproductive prospects than their less intelligent siblings.

Not true at all, while affluence may attract a different category of "mate" it's just "different" (arguably "more") reproductive prospects, not "better". Having a good job or lots of money doesn't mean you attract someone who has a better ability to breed, and in fact may even have the opposite affect, if you only breed with your "class" the less people in your class then the less the genetic diversity and this usually brings down viability.

>>Finally, we're talking here about a trend (small nuclear family) that has developed in the last 2-300 years, in evolutionary terms that is a drop in teh bucket and will hardly be noticed

I agree in principle, but we will likely continue this trend, for example, a few thousand years ago, someone with a genetic disorder could find it life threatning, the smartest or strongest would rule a tribe (and get the pick of mates or even just be allowed to mate), today, not so, Gattica is a great film which touches on this subject.

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Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

Ironically, the mechanism by which the smartest get to rule the tribe is religion. Invent a plausible explanation for what happens when you die (heaven or hell depending on whether you do what god wants), convince people that you know what god wants, tell them that he is all seeing so they will go to hell even is nobody catches them doing wrong. Everyone will do what you tell them.

If you are really smart, and intuitively understand that evolution applies to memes as well as genes, also tell them god doesn't like masturbation or birth control.

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Re: I'll bet we'll find plenty of other species too.

"being thick as two short planks is genetic"

Genes are only one factor in intelligence. But by far the biggest factor is education. Children in an environment with low mental stimulation are less well educated when they start school and never catch up.

(On the other hand, I've known many people in degree-educated jobs who do seem quite thick despite all that education...)

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FAIL

A foot skeleton?

Just the thing for leaping to conclusions!

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Coat

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.

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Re: A foot skeleton?

And be made to toe the line.

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Coat

Re: A foot skeleton?

I'm sure current evolutionary understanding will help flesh the theory out, one step at a time.

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min

Re: A foot skeleton?

well, i'm going to arch over all this punning and take this seriously!

are they able to extract viable material from these bones and perform genetic analyses? it would be interesting to profile our new skeletal friend here..

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Joke

Re: A foot skeleton?

I concur. I heard they've made great strides in that kind of research. I might have to bone up on the latest break throughs.

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@min

No they are not "able to extract viable material from these bones", because these are not bones: these are fossils, and are therefore rocks not bones. Sorry, I agree genetic analysis would have been nice, but it's impossible.

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"hominin"?

That's a new one on me, and the OED. Likewise "homonin" in the article summary. Is this an accepted term in the field, or just a typo for "hominid"?

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Re: "hominin"?

Hominin is OK. Homonin is a town in Kentucky with a population of twelve. Probably.

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Re: "hominin"?

I wondered that, too, but apparently hominins are a subset of hominids.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/270333/Hominidae

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Re: "hominin"?

re: that town in Kentucky... here was me thinking it was just a homonym.

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Trollface

Where's the mystery

Plainly this is just the proof that we were waiting for, Tarzeena and her Cheetah found at last !

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Holmes

Theory?

might have a theory, but do they have leg to stand on?

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Alien

Pak

Obviously a Pak breeder...:-)

If you haven't read Larry Niven just move on.

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Joke

Funny bone

Lucy and a monkey sitting in a tree, k - i - s - s - i - ... you know the rest.

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A legend in someone else's lifetime.

Leg end?

My coat's in the car.

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So....

What size shoe did this hominid take?

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- US -

...and bigfoot, don't forget bigfoot.

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