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Re: [SACC-L] Student Question

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  • Bob Muckle
    Besides the probability of poorer preservation, also consider that there would likely be far less localities with sediments laid down millions of years ago in
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 10, 2011
      Besides the probability of poorer preservation, also consider that there would likely be far less localities with sediments laid down millions of years ago in West Africa, now being exposed. Most of the well-known fossil localities in East Africa are within the Great Rift Valley, where erosion keep exposing fossils with relatively little effort. Another reason is that people tend to look where people have found fossils before, for the simple reason that there is a better probability of finding things. And what funding agency would want to provide funds for someone looking in West Africa when the chance of success is almost non-existent. The good news is that although researchers still tend to flock to the well-known localities of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, in the last few decades some researchers have been able to get funding to look in others areas such as Chad, which has produced important discoveries. Also, there is likely to be increasing competition for funding from those researchers now looking for early humans (ie. pre- H. erectus) outside of Africa.

      Bob

      >>> Nikki Ives <ikkinh@...> 11/10/2011 12:05 PM >>>
      Hi All -


      A student in my physical anthropology class asked me this question and I'm not quite sure of the answer. Can anyone out there help me out?

      Student question: I was just curious to know why there aren't any documented fossil finds
      from West Africa. Unless I missed it in the textbook, it seems that
      majority of the African discoveries are from the North, East and South.
      Is there any theory or hypothesis surrounding this?

      Thanks,

      Nikki


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Andrew Petto
      And furthermore, if we are correct about the fact that the push to bipedalism came as climate change transformed the landscape in eastern and southern Africa
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 10, 2011
        And furthermore, if we are correct about the fact that the push to
        bipedalism came as climate change transformed the landscape in eastern
        and southern Africa ... squeezing some ape descendants into less and
        less forested biomes, then those orthograde striders would tend to be
        found in those regions that has undergone those environmental
        transformations. The other apes seem to have retreated with the forest.

        So, to the extent that early hominins were adapting to life in a less
        heavily forested environment, one would expect to find their remains in
        those places that were less heavily forested at the time.

        It is interesting to note that some of the really early candidates for
        hominin ancestors that are found earlier (closer to 6 mya) are both more
        "chimpy" in their form and most likely to be associated with more
        heavily forested environments than we typically see with, for example,
        Australopithecus. They are also less clearly bipedal (remains are
        awfully fragmentary and some of the inferences quite hopeful and likely
        to be true under only the most fortuitous circumstances), even though
        there are other hints in the remains that suggest that some of the
        derived features associated with hominins are present.

        So, it is a combination of the ancient distribution, taphonomy at death
        and burial, and current conditions (including funding preferences) for
        discovery and recovery.

        So, in one sense we ARE finding most of the earliest hominin fossils in
        east and south Africa because that is where we are looking. It is like
        looking in the North American badlands for dinosaurs: you are bound to
        find them. But there is also the fact that all the research and recovery
        in these regions have indicated to us what kinds of ancient habitats
        were attractive to these ancestors and where examples of those might be
        found and be relatively accessible (as Bob pointed out).

        Anj

        On 11/10/2011 14:58, Bob Muckle wrote:
        >
        > Besides the probability of poorer preservation, also consider that
        > there would likely be far less localities with sediments laid down
        > millions of years ago in West Africa, now being exposed. Most of the
        > well-known fossil localities in East Africa are within the Great Rift
        > Valley, where erosion keep exposing fossils with relatively little
        > effort. Another reason is that people tend to look where people have
        > found fossils before, for the simple reason that there is a better
        > probability of finding things. And what funding agency would want to
        > provide funds for someone looking in West Africa when the chance of
        > success is almost non-existent. The good news is that although
        > researchers still tend to flock to the well-known localities of
        > Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, in the last few decades
        > some researchers have been able to get funding to look in others areas
        > such as Chad, which has produced important discoveries. Also, there is
        > likely to be increasing competi tion for funding from those
        > researchers now looking for early humans (ie. pre- H. erectus) outside
        > of Africa.
        >
        > Bob
        >
        > >>> Nikki Ives <ikkinh@... <mailto:ikkinh%40yahoo.com>>
        > 11/10/2011 12:05 PM >>>
        > Hi All -
        >
        > A student in my physical anthropology class asked me this question and
        > I'm not quite sure of the answer. Can anyone out there help me out?
        >
        > Student question: I was just curious to know why there aren't any
        > documented fossil finds
        > from West Africa. Unless I missed it in the textbook, it seems that
        > majority of the African discoveries are from the North, East and South.
        > Is there any theory or hypothesis surrounding this?
        >
        > Thanks,
        >
        > Nikki
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >

        --

        -----------------------------
        Andrew J Petto, PhD
        Senior Lecturer
        Department of Biological Sciences
        University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee
        PO Box 413
        Milwaukee WI 53201-0413
        CapTel Line: 1-877-243-2823
        Telephone: 414-229-6784
        FAX: 414-229-3926
        https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/ajpetto/www/index.htm

        *************
        Now Available!!! Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism.
        https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/ajpetto/www/scc2.htm
        *************



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Nikki Ives
        Thanks, Bob!  Now I ll sound like I m really smart and totally know what what I m talking about to my students :-) Nikki ... increasing competition for
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 11, 2011
          Thanks, Bob!  Now I'll sound like I'm really smart and totally know what what I'm talking about to my students :-)

          Nikki




          >________________________________
          >From: Bob Muckle <bmuckle@...>
          >To: "SACC-L@yahoogroups.com" <SACC-L@yahoogroups.com>
          >Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2011 3:58 PM
          >Subject: Re: [SACC-L] Student Question
          >
          >

          >Besides the probability of poorer preservation, also consider that there would likely be far less localities with sediments laid down millions of years ago in West Africa, now being exposed. Most of the well-known fossil localities in East Africa are within the Great Rift Valley, where erosion keep exposing fossils with relatively little effort. Another reason is that people tend to look where people have found fossils before, for the simple reason that there is a better probability of finding things. And what funding agency would want to provide funds for someone looking in West Africa when the chance of success is almost non-existent. The good news is that although researchers still tend to flock to the well-known localities of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, in the last few decades some researchers have been able to get funding to look in others areas such as Chad, which has produced important discoveries. Also, there is likely to be
          increasing competition for funding from those researchers now looking for early humans (ie. pre- H. erectus) outside of Africa.
          >
          >Bob
          >
          >>>> Nikki Ives <ikkinh@...> 11/10/2011 12:05 PM >>>
          >Hi All -
          >
          >A student in my physical anthropology class asked me this question and I'm not quite sure of the answer. Can anyone out there help me out?
          >
          >Student question: I was just curious to know why there aren't any documented fossil finds
          >from West Africa. Unless I missed it in the textbook, it seems that
          >majority of the African discoveries are from the North, East and South.
          >Is there any theory or hypothesis surrounding this?
          >
          >Thanks,
          >
          >Nikki
          >
          >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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