Cryptozoology, BioForteana, and Remarkable Species
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Lost Tribe Wasn't
The images of an alleged "lost tribe" in the Brazilian-Peruvian Amazon border turned out to be an isolated tribe that was known since 1910. The photos were deliberately released (and story concocted) as a publicity stunt to increase political pressure on logging companies that might endanger any actual unknown people groups in the region. (News source.)
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Chimp Tools or Controversial Discovery?
Excavators say they've found tools made by chimps
Crude hammers likened to those of race of hominids
David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Archaeologists working in the rain forest of West Africa's Ivory Coast say they have found a site where prehistoric families of chimpanzees fashioned crude stone hammers to crack open nuts for their food.
The flaked stones made by those savvy animals at least 4,300 years ago are remarkably similar, the scientists said, to those made by the earliest known prehuman tool-users -- the race of hominids known as Australopithecines, whose fossils show they lived some 2.5 million years ago or more.
The chimps, therefore, must have shared "cultural attributes" with the hominids who lived and went extinct almost at the start of the long and complex human lineage, said Julio Mercader an archaeologist at Canada's University of Calgary.
Perhaps, Mercader speculated, the hominid race known as Australopithecines and ancient ancestors of tool-making chimps inherited their jointly shared "technology" from some common ancestor before the apes and human lineages split 6 to 7 million years ago.
His conclusions, reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are already controversial. Tim White, the noted Berkeley paleoanthropologist who has long explored human evolution in Africa, insists, for instance, that it's impossible to tell just who or what made the scattered stones found by Mercader's group.
Nicholas Toth, an Indiana University anthropologist who specializes in the study of Stone Age tools, sharply criticized earlier reports from Mercader's team -- published in the journal Science in 2002 -- suggesting that the chimp tool-makers might have imitated the earliest hominids. At least this time, Toth said, the team is "not overstating the case that there's chimp archaeology out there -- although whether the tools are chimp or human is still uncertain."
Mercader and his international team of scientists explored three sites about 200 yards apart in the Ivory Coast's Tai National Park, and said they found a total of 210 flaked and chipped stone hammers made from granite, quartz or quartzite.
Almost all were at a single site called Noulo, where the scientists found cracks in what they identified as stone hammers that bore traces of starchy pulp from edible nuts. The starchy pulp is evidence, they said, that to obtain food the apes had deliberately cracked open the nuts by bashing them with their hammers against tough tree roots or fallen tree limbs that they used as anvils.
The rocks, most of them about the size of melons, clearly resemble the deliberately crafted choppers and hammers typical of the earliest Stone Age tools known to anthropologists as the Oldowan technology, Mercader said. But they were almost surely made by chimpanzees, he maintained, because the chipped rocks are too large to have been crafted by smaller human hands.
He conceded there is no evidence that the chimps crafted them deliberately, however, and said humans too may have lived in the rain-sodden forest there, or at least passed through.
"The tools represent a parallel Chimpanzee Stone Age," the archaeology team wrote in its report, and the chipped rocks indicate that chimps and the oldest hominid toolmakers of the distant past shared a culture that dates back for countless millennia. Since the chipped stones that the group has analyzed have been independently dated as at least 4,300 years old, and since mother apes in the region today are also known to teach their children to use stone tools, it is clear that nut-cracking behavior has now been passed along from parents to offspring for at least 200 generations, Mercader said.
"I believe that the culture of these chimps dates back for many more generations than that," Mercader said, "and perhaps back to the time when they sprang from a common ancestor."
At Berkeley, White was strongly skeptical. The stone objects strewn beneath the trees at the reported sites seem little more than rubbish, he said.
"The (team's) paper falls short of establishing that this thin scatter of rubbish was left by chimpanzees," White wrote in an e-mail. "An alternative hypothesis is that the rubbish was authored by humans."
Toth, the Indiana anthropologist, is the founder and co-director of the Stone Age Institute at Bloomington, where he demonstrates how he can skillfully craft the hammers, sharp knives and spear points that evolution enabled the forebears of Homo Sapiens to make long before the dawn of true humanity.
For the past 17 years, in fact, Toth has been teaching a smart bonobo named Kanzi -- a pigmy chimpanzee -- to make tools of all types from all kinds of materials as a way of understanding how chimp minds work.
Toth is well aware how tricky it can be to identify stone objects that may or not be tools. In fact, he said in a telephone interview, only last year he was in San Francisco with Berkeley friends and colleagues, and at the rock-strewn base of Telegraph Hill they found a scatter of rough stones that had obviously been chipped and flaked merely by bumping against each other as they tumbled down the hill's precipitous slope.
"You can find stones that have been broken either naturally or humanly, and they really look like tools," Toth mused. "But chimp archaeology is very new, and it needs a lot more study."
Monday, January 29, 2007
'Hobbit' was no pygmy, but a separate species
'Hobbit' was no pygmy, but a separate species:
World-renowned paleo-neurologist and chairman of the Florida State University's anthropology department Dean Falk has acknowledged that "Hobbits" are indeed a separate and a new homonid species.
Having carried out further studies on the skeletal remains of an 18,000-year-old Hobbit-sized human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, Falk and her team of researchers are now convinced that the "Hobbit" catalogued as LB1 - Homo Floresiensis - was definitely not a human born as a pygmy or a microcephalic - a human with an abnormally small skull.
Falk and her team of international experts have based their finding on detailed maps of imprints left on the ancient hominid's braincase, and concluded that the so-called Hobbit was actually more closely related to Homo Sapiens.
"We have answered the people who contend that the Hobbit is a microcephalic," Falk said of her team's study of both normal and microcephalic human brains published in the January 29 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).
A debate over the remains of the 3-foot-tall adult female with a brain roughly one-third the size of a contemporary human has been going on for the past four years.
People have refused to believe that someone with that small of a brain could make sophisticated tools, but according to Dr. Falk, the LB1 had a highly evolved brain that wasn't very big, but was reorganised to carry out certain actions in tune with activity normally related to homo sapians.
In the latest study, the researchers compared 3-D, computer-generated reconstructions of nine microcephalic modern human brains and 10 normal modern human brains. They found that certain shape features completely separate the two groups and that Hobbit classifies with normal humans rather than microcephalic humans in these features. In other ways, however, Hobbit's brain is unique, which is consistent with its attribution to a new species.
Comparison of two areas in the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe and the back of the brain show the Hobbit brain is nothing like a microcephalic's and is advanced in a way that is different from living humans. In fact, the LB1 brain was the "antithesis" of the microcephalic brain, according to Falk, a finding the researchers hope puts this part of the Hobbit controversy to rest.
In October last year, researchers said that the Hobbit fossil found in Flores, Indonesia did not represent a new species of hominid, but was rather a small bodied modern human who suffered from a genetic condition known as microcephaly, characterized by a small head.
A study published in Nature in 2004 had said that the fossil belonged to a new species of hominid. The claim had divided palaeontologists into two distinct camps, with one camp vociferously arguing that the remains belonged to a new species.
Microcephaly is a term that covers many conditions. There are more than 400 different human genes for which mutations can result in small brain size. Accordingly, there is a correspondingly wide range of different syndromes that are recognized in clinical practice.
In August, a view was circulated that the Indonesian hobbit was actually a deformed Homo Sapien. The belief then was that Homo Erectus reached Flores 840,000 years ago and, living in isolation, evolved into a species distinct from Homo sapiens, named as Homo floresiensis.
They said geographically, Flores had at least two migrations of ancient elephants from nearby islands, and therefore it was highly unlikely that hominids arrived only once and evolved in isolation.
Also, the island was not large enough to have supported isolated hunter-gatherers with a population adequate enough to maintain genetic diversity for long-term survival. A later study by a joint Indonesian, Australian, and US research team showed that the remains belonged to a Homo sapiens and not a distinct species.
In May last year, there was a view that hobbits simply did not exist"It's perfectly plausible that these were pygmy people. But there's only one skull, and that is human and microcephalic," claimed Professor Robert Martin then. (ANI)
The PNAS article is not up at their website at this time, but should be shortly.
It should also be noted that Dr. Dwight Smith and Gary Mangiacopra have authored a new article on the subject of Homo Floresiensis , this article is slated to appear in the forthcoming Bestia Elementum book under the CRYPTO series in April / May 2007. In this entry the authors propose that Homo floresiensis is not only a new species, but a potential new genus.......