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Origin Of Bipedalism Closely Tied To Environmental Changes
Space Daily ^ | 05-01-2002 | staff writer at Space Daily

Posted on 05/29/2002 2:11:46 PM PDT by Salman

Origin Of Bipedalism Closely Tied To Environmental Changes

Champaign - May 01, 2002

During the past 100 years, scientists have tossed around a great many hypotheses about the evolutionary route to bipedalism, to what inspired our prehuman ancestors to stand up straight and amble off on two feet.

Now, after an extensive study of evolutionary, anatomical and fossil evidence, a team of paleoanthropologists has narrowed down the number of tenable hypotheses to explain bipedalism and our prehuman ancestors' method of navigating their world before they began walking upright.

The hypothesis they found the most support for regarding the origin of bipedalism is the one that says our ancestors began walking upright largely in response to environmental changes – in particular, to the growing incidence of open spaces and the way that changed the distribution of food.

In response to periods of cooling and drying, which thinned out dense forests and produced "mosaics" of forests, woodlands and grasslands, it seems likely that "some apes maintained a

forest-oriented adaptation, while others may have begun to exploit forest margins and grassy woodlands," said paleoanthropologist Brian Richmond, lead author in the new study. The process of increasing commitment to bipediality probably involved "an extended and complex opening of habitats, rather than a single, abrupt transition from dense forest to open savanna," he said.

Richmond, from the University of Illinois, with anthropologist David Begun from the University of Toronto and David Strait from the department of anatomy at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, describe their findings, which involved a comprehensive review and analyses of the five leading hypotheses on the origin of bipedalism, in a recent issue of the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. Other hypotheses that remain viable, according to the team: "freeing" the hands for carrying or for some kind of tool use, and an increased emphasis on foraging from branches of small fruit trees, which is the context in which modern chimpanzees spend the most time on two legs.

For their study, the researchers combined data from biomechanics – movement and posture, pressure distributions and strain gauge – and from finger-shape growth and development. They found that our prehuman ancestors had terrestrial features in the hands and feet, climbing features throughout the skeleton, and knuckle-walking features in the wrist and hand; that finger curvature is responsive to changes in arboreal activity during growth. Evidence from the wrist joint, in particular, "suggests that the earliest humans evolved bipedalism from an ancestor adapted for knuckle-walking on the ground and climbing in trees."

The YPA article, according to Richmond, is "the first attempt in decades to bring together all of the available evidence for the argument that the earliest human biped evolved from ancestors that both knuckle-walked and climbed trees, rather than from ancestors living exclusively in trees and 'coming down from the trees,' or walking on the ground in ways similar to modern baboons."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: godsgravesglyphs; humanevolution; origins; thelatesttheory
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I am not a "young earth" creationist. I don't say God created the universe. I say God is creating the universe. God is outside of time in any case.

Nevertheless, I remain skeptical of stuff like this. Still a good read, and possibly true, IMO.

1 posted on 05/29/2002 2:11:47 PM PDT by Salman
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To: Salman
I see the picture but these people are on foot. What happened to the bikes?
2 posted on 05/29/2002 2:17:32 PM PDT by A Vast RightWing Conspirator
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To: Salman
If global warming hits, do you think people will switch to unipedalism?
3 posted on 05/29/2002 2:18:10 PM PDT by Atlas Sneezed
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To: Salman
On the other hand, the origin of motorcyclism is likely tied to age, which makes bipedalism seem like too much effort ;)
4 posted on 05/29/2002 2:18:57 PM PDT by Sender
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To: Salman
It's obvious the humans started to walk upright because the can of beer kept geting spilled by dragging the knuckles.
5 posted on 05/29/2002 2:19:03 PM PDT by brooklin
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To: Salman
Adam and Eve were created walking and talking. All this junk science is good for is to try to keep you from knowing your creator. And they are probably using taxpayers dollars to study this nonsense.
6 posted on 05/29/2002 2:21:53 PM PDT by Russell Scott
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To: Russell Scott
I suppose your computer is preventing you from knowing your computer as well.
7 posted on 05/29/2002 2:24:52 PM PDT by psychoknk
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To: Salman
Does being a commie lib reverse the process -- i.e., one reverts to knuckle-dragging?

Witness: Hillary Rodham. Q.E.D.

8 posted on 05/29/2002 2:24:52 PM PDT by quark
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To: psychoknk
doh! Redo:

I suppose your computer is prenting you from knowing your creator as well.

9 posted on 05/29/2002 2:25:50 PM PDT by psychoknk
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To: Russell Scott
As Popeye would say, "It's faskinating!"
BTW, did you know your dog makes his own Vitamin C, and yet you cannot?
Why would God create humans to be inferior to dogs?
The answer has to do with "use it or lose it" and
is a powerful indicator that early hominids ate fruit so
exclusively that the need to make C was selected out and didn't come back.
Else, God is a lousy craftsman.
10 posted on 05/29/2002 2:30:17 PM PDT by gcruse
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To: Salman
the growing incidence of open spaces

That fails the smell test. There aren't many four-legged things that are slower than the two-legged thing. How would being slower be an advantage in crossing open spaces? It not only takes you longer to get to the food, it makes you an easy mark for the things that want to turn you into food.

My hunch is that the "tool thing" came first, and bipedalism arose because there was a higher valued use for hands.

11 posted on 05/29/2002 2:35:10 PM PDT by Nick Danger
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To: Salman
I believe that the Aquatic Ape Theory is by far the most logical evolutionary explanation of the development of the human species.

Sea Shepherd International is an IRS fully certified 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible

The Aquatic Ape

By Captain Paul Watson


This article appeared in the Spring 2001  issue of Ocean Realm magazine and appears here by permission.

Sometimes scientific beliefs can be as rigidly dogmatic as religious beliefs. For the inquiring scientist who dares to challenge the "facts," the punishment is usually ridicule, and the deterrent is usually pressure to desist, or else one's career might suffer as a consequence.

One piece of scientific dogmas that has troubled me for years is the premise that modern humans descended from some savanna-hunting ape. I remember questioning this in an undergraduate anthropology class, only to have the professor silence me with that "don't be ridiculous" look.

The savanna hypothesis holds that humans left the trees and strode out upon the plains. WE became bipedal because we stood up like meerkats to peruse the horizon in search of prey. We lost our body hair as a means of regulating temperature because we began to run in pursuit of our prey under the open sun. We developed our large brains as a result of hunting in packs on the plains.

It just never seemed to click. The same theory holds that man was the hunter, and woman the gatherer, yet if body hair was lost due to running after prey, then why do women have even less body hair than men? Why do all other grassy plains predators have thick body hair and walk on four legs?

Recent evident has cast even greater doubts on the savanna theory. It appears that the conditions that created the great African grasslands did not occur until after our ancestors had already evolved to walk upright.

In 1995, South African paleontologist Phillip Tobias delivered a lecture at the University of London. He reported that foot bones found in Sterkfontein, South Africa, Demonstrated an "arboreal element" in the environment of the hominids whose fossils were found there. He concluded that Australopithecines were not plains dwellers at all. New findings of fossil animals, plants, and pollen indicate that the large brain was already well developed before any hominid set foot on the savanna. Molecular dating places the hominid/chimpanzee split somewhere between four and six million years ago.

The climate at this time was warm. Much of East Africa was inundated by a sea-level rise at the end of the Miocene period and the beginning of the Pliocene. This meant that much of the jungle was literally swamped, similar to the great salt estuaries of modern-day East Africa. The early hominid ancestors did not go to the water. The water came to them. AS a result, hominids, after the split with the chimp, literally returned to the sea.

Marine biologist Alistair Hardy first gave voice to this theory in 960. He called it the Aquatic Ape hypothesis. Hardy noticed that modern humans shared certain characteristics with marine mammals that we did not share with other primates.

Unfortunately, Hardy was advised by his academic colleagues not to pursue the theory for fear of damaging his career. Until recently, a very lonely Elaine Morgan, the author of The Descent of Woman, championed the theory. Since she gave a presentation at the 1968 Dual Congress on Paleontology and Human Biology, there has been more attention given to the idea, especially in the light of the emerging data refuting the once sacred savanna theory of human development.

The Aquatic Ape theory postulates that during a period of a million or two years after hominids broke away from chimpanzees, human ancestors spent a considerable time living and evolving in estuaries, marshy jungles and along coastal shorelines.

We share 99 percent of our DNA with the chimpanzee and we share many pliesiomorphies with chimps and other primates, the shared characteristics of species with a common ancestor. An example is that both chimps and humans have four fingers and an opposable thumb.

Apomorphies are the characteristics that separate us from our cousins. An example of this is our relative hairlessness. The fascinating thing is that most of our apomorphic characteristics are shared with marine mammals. There are physiological traits that humans and dolphins share that chimps, monkeys and gorillas do not. In fact, these characteristics are completely lacking in most land mammals.

How is it that humans can have these traits yet all other primates and most other land mammals do not? Looking at the human body and comparing it to a chimpanzee, we quite readily see both the similarities and the differences. Looking at a human body and comparing it to a seal or a dolphin, we can see the similarities that we share with both the chimps and the dolphins that differentiate the species Homo sapiens from the other primates.

Hairlessness is a characteristics shared by humans, dolphins, whales, manatees, and hippos. All are mammals, and all have hair that is extremely sparse compared to land mammals. Perceived hairlessness is a trait that has developed in tropical and subtropical marine mammal species. Elephants spend a great deal of time in the water, and there is evidence suggesting that ancestors of today's modern elephants were even more aquatic-oriented, and that the trunk may have first evolved as a snorkel.

If we look at the characteristics that we share with dolphins and do not share with chimpanzees, we find conscious breath control, greatly reduced body hair, subcutaneous body fat, and greater brain size and complexity.

Dolphins, however, became fully aquatic, whereas humans evolved to be semi aquatic.

The ability to walk upright carries great advantages in a watery environment. Two legs allow for the primate to wade into deeper water than four legs, thus expanding forage range. Over time, wading, swimming, and diving would greatly expand the range of food sources. It is interesting that the Bonobo and the Proboscis monkeys have longer legs than chimps and other monkeys respectively, and both these species do spend time in watery habitats.

Bipedalism on the grasslands would have slowed the species down, as species that run on four legs are much faster than species that run on two. Only an aquatic or arboreal-aquatic lifestyles would give a two-legged primate an advantage.

Probably the best way to examine this theory is to ask what specific features an aquatic animals would be expected to have. The next question would be: do we have these features?

Strangely, we actually have more hair follicles than our cousin, the chimpanzee. The difference is that human hair is very fine and short, giving us a hairless appearance. What we do have is ten times more adipocytes (fat cells) than the chimp.

Human babies are born fat, whereas all other primate babies are born lean. Human babies can swim from the moment of birth. Other primate babies cannot. Human babies not only float but also, after being born submerged, can swim under their own power, holding their breath until reaching the surface. In the water, the human baby is not helpless. From the moment of birth on, the human baby can swim alongside its mother.

Fat is a characteristic of marine mammals. It encourages buoyancy. It is an excellent insulator in the water. No other primates have it all over their bodies. The fat on aquatic mammals adheres to the skin, whereas on terrestrial animals it is attached to the muscle. In humans it is attached to the skin.

Human beings do not have a layer of cutaneous muscle. This layer of "panniculus carnosus" is found in most terrestrial mammals, including every primate except ourselves. This is the muscle that allows for twitching of the skin and thus allows for the twitching away of insects.

No other terrestrial animal has ever exchanged fur or thick hair for body fat as a form of thermoregulation. Rhinos, pigs, elephants and hippos all have done so, and all have been aquatic. One other group that does accumulate great amounts of fat, although retaining fur, is the hibernators like the bears. Humans are not hibernators and thus our accumulation of body fat can only be aquatic.

Another difference is that compared to all other primates, humans are notorious for wasting water. We sweat and lose great amounts of salt and water, and we expel urine much more frequently than other primates do. This kind of waste makes sense only if water is readily available to the species at all times. Add to this the fact that humans have more and larger sebaceous glands than any other primate. The role of sebum is simply to waterproof the hair and skin.

When swimming, the aquatic apes would have kept one part of their anatomy above the water more than any other part, and that of course is the head. Thus hair remained on the head to insulate the body by preventing heat loss and preventing sunstroke. L But hair also had another functional use. We are the only primate whose head hair grows to great lengths. In the water, without fur to cling to, a baby hominid needed to cling to something, and long hair provides the most practical way for the child to attach itself to the parent. It is well-researched that women's hair grows faster and thicker during pregnancy.

The development of the human female breast can also be explained by this theory. A female breast is primarily fat, and fat floats, thus the child in the water would have access to the nipple at the surface.

The most fascinating aspect of this theory however is the fact that humans possess the "diving reflex." The diving reflex, or bradycardia, is a condition which occurs in aquatic and semi aquatic animals. It involves a decrease in the heart rate and the redistribution of blood to the brain and the oranges. This process is called vasoconstriction. This ability is natural in humans. Blow on a baby's face and submerge the baby and the baby will hold its breath until it resurfaces. This ability is both voluntary and involuntary. When we choose to dives, we can hold our breath for up to two minutes, and with training up to seven minutes. Humans can dive to depths of one hundred meters at the extreme, but most humans in fair health can certainly dive to ten meters. No other primate would choose to do this.

In involuntary situations, especially in colder waters, the body can shut down, and people have survived over thirty minutes of submersion without physical or mental damage. Studies on dolphins, seals, and sea lions demonstrates that they can willfully hold their breath for long periods, but when forced to submerge without knowing when they will resurface, heart rates plummet to as low as eight beats a minute from the forty of a normal dive, and they can remain submerged for three to four times as long as they would voluntarily.

It is interesting that the diving reflex of an ex-aquatic, the pig, when trained to dive is equal to that of an untrained human being. This ability to hold and control our breath also led to a skill that we share with marine mammals and not shared by our primate cousins: the ability to form complex speech. Although we share the ability to communicate through body language and facial expressions with other primates, we depend upon complex vocalization as our primary method of communication-just as whales and dolphins do.

Complex speech is dependent upon the ability to hold and control breath. Other primates are unable to voluntarily hold their breath. Additionally, the more advanced range of sounds that humans can emit is due to a descended larynx. In humans, the larynx is deep in the throat, and unlike other apes, is no longer in contact with the uvula. This allows humans to take in air not only through the nose but also through the mouth. The larynx descended so that we could take in air through our mouths. The ability to take in air through the mouth allowed us to take deep breaths prior to diving. Thus our ability to speak the way we do is a direct result of adaptations meant for diving. A descended larynx is not found in other primates, but it is found in sea lions, walrus, and in manatees.

Let's look at our teeth. If we were predators on the plains, we should have developed baboon like canines. The fact is we do not have teeth that can tear and rip animal flesh. Yet our teeth are ideally adapted to eat practically anything in a marine environment. We can crack crustacean shells, we can eat live fish raw, and we can chew seaweed. By chewing raw fish, fresh water can also be extracted, sufficient to support a hominid for long periods without access to fresh water. Early Australopithecine teeth most closely resemble those of the sea otter. Today we possess relatively weak jaws and teeth suited for softer aquatic foods, more so than rough plant fiber and animal flesh. I once sat on the bottom in thirty feet of water and ate oysters. I was able to open them, put them in my mouth, expel the seawater and swallow them without the use of any tool or scuba equipment. I think our ancestors may have done that easily.

Look at our hands-squared compared to the elongated hands of other primates. More paddle like, and between the fingers and toes, there is evidence of webbing. Some people have more than others do. There is no doubt that we are the swimming ape. We know how to move through water and our bodies seem to be designed for it. When you pour a pail of water onto a chimp or a monkey, the hair follicles on the body actually resist the flow of water, whereas on the human, the hair follicles flow with the water.

When we pull our heads from the water, the water streams down and is diverted from the eyes by our eyebrows. This is a very functional use for this strange pattern of hair growth. Consider the nose. It also is ideally suited for submergence in water. Because we have a sinus cavity, we can equalize pressure simply by holding the nose and breathing out. Many young children have the ability to completely close their nostrils at will just like seals and dolphins do. Usually this ability is lost as the child grows, but quite possibly it is lost due to the lack of use and is a carry-through of our once-aquatic past.

Recent research (S. C. Cunnane 1999) has shown that the overall development of brain size has actually decreased in mammals and primates evolving on African savanna ecosystems. This has been linked to the deficiency in the savanna food chain of Docosahexanoic acid. This molecule is essential for brain growth and is deficient in terrestrial ecosystems although very abundant in marine ecosystems.

It is not accident that the most highly developed brains are found in the oceans among the aquatic and semi aquatic species. The best source of nutrients for a developing brain is the marine or lake habitats where essential elements like iodine, zinc, and long=chained fatty acids are plentiful.

Look at the human foot. It is an ideal structure for walking on mud and sand.

In a hostile world with jungle and grasslands literally crawling with predators, what safer place would there be than the area between the shore and deep-water? Food is plentiful, the habitat comfortable. We still all love the beach, many love to swim, enjoy the feeling of mud between our toes and like sushi. Most importantly, our physiology suggests that at some point we spent a considerable amount of time in the water.

How long? It is interesting that our fossil record is very sparse from that period when we diverged from the chimps until about a million and a half years ago. This gives a period of between two and three million years for our ancestors to have been beach bums. That's plenty of time for physiological evolution to allow for the adaptation of physical changes that would allow us to utilize the aquatic environment more efficiently.

I think the fossils exist. We've just been looking for them in the wrong places. Look instead to where the shores of Africa once were, some two million years ago, places that today are deep beneath the sea. There in the benthic muck, alongside the fossilized shells and fish bones, I am of the opinion we could find the skulls and bones of those water-loving ancestors whose chosen habitat has made us what we are today-the naked, swimming, dive-reflex-equipped, vocalizing and intelligent primates that we are.


12 posted on 05/29/2002 2:37:25 PM PDT by Maceman
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To: Salman
And I thought it was mainly because you can have quickie behind a tree far easier standing up than on all fours.
13 posted on 05/29/2002 2:37:39 PM PDT by VRWC_minion
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To: Maceman
Interesting, but I don't think it holds water.
14 posted on 05/29/2002 2:44:23 PM PDT by stanz
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To: Nick Danger
My hunch is that the "tool thing" came first, and bipedalism arose because there was a higher valued use for hands.

Your "hunch" is the most widely accepted notion today. Traditionally, it was believed that bipedalism was the result of a larger brain-to-body size---that walking upright was a singularly human trait because humans had the largest brains. The fossil record changed that thinking. Early forms, including Australopithecus were totally bipedal yet, possessed a cranial capacity not much larger than the chimpanzee.

15 posted on 05/29/2002 2:53:43 PM PDT by stanz
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To: Salman
I still like the theory of "The Naked Ape", the ancestors of homo sapiens spent time in water and lost the fur and turn upright.
16 posted on 05/29/2002 3:11:47 PM PDT by Kermit
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To: Beelzebubba
No, silly, we'll go back to swimming. Don't you know that global warming is going to cause sea level to rise by several hundred feet, leaving most of what's now land underwater? /s
17 posted on 05/29/2002 3:41:15 PM PDT by GovernmentShrinker
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Comment #18 Removed by Moderator

To: Maceman
Do you have a link?
19 posted on 05/29/2002 4:46:41 PM PDT by rmlew
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To: Salman
Its simply impossible to tiptoe through the tulips gracefully on four feet.
20 posted on 05/29/2002 6:03:01 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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Comment #21 Removed by Moderator

To: Maceman
"and like sushi" - That's funny.

Seriously, though, when our 2 kids were babies many years ago we taught them to swim before they learned to walk. We thought it was a necessity since we had a pool.

They actually learned to swim as babies very easily, though they could probably do it only fairly briefly.

22 posted on 05/29/2002 9:29:51 PM PDT by Sam Cree
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To: ex con
you are kidding, right?

No. Why do you ask? You think the "Naked Ape" thing really makes more sense? I have read Elaine Morgan's book, and it makes a very compelling case. After reading her book, it's hard to consider that anyonw would take Desmond Morris seriously. She really shoots holes in his theory.

23 posted on 05/30/2002 5:41:27 AM PDT by Maceman
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To: rmlew
Do you have a link?

Here is the link

24 posted on 05/30/2002 5:45:51 AM PDT by Maceman
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To: ex con
The aquatic theory makes a lot of sense to me, particularly after my health exam. My "bad" cholesterol is a bit high, so I have to decrease my intake of red meat, and increase my intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are primarily found in fish. There are lots of indicators that the human diet optimally should include lots of seafood. Why would that be, unless our natural environment is near bodies of water?
25 posted on 05/30/2002 6:03:19 AM PDT by SauronOfMordor
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To: Patrick Henry; Quila; Rudder; Donh; VadeRetro; Radio Astronomer; Travis McGee; Physicist...
(((ping))))


26 posted on 05/30/2002 6:23:45 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Maceman
I believe that the Aquatic Ape Theory is by far the most logical evolutionary explanation of the development of the human species.

Why can't humans swim from birth?

How can we be descended from aquatic apes, and have forgotten how to do that?




27 posted on 05/30/2002 6:29:12 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Nick Danger
That fails the smell test.

Does it depend on your sense of smell?

28 posted on 05/30/2002 6:51:40 AM PDT by VadeRetro
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To: Salman; Sabertooth
I have a completely different idea. As far as I know, this is an original scientific hypothesis. To prove that I'm a crackpot, I've cast my hypothesis into the form of a sonnet:

Prometheus

Some theorize that man first walked erect,
To carry simple tools, or throw a spear,
The fossil record proves this incorrect:
Walking predates tools, two million years.

Others think that walking freed the hands,
To gather and to carry precious food,
But this selects the group and not the man,
And won't select at all when times are good.

I think 'twas fire that taught the ape to stand,
It's fearful, but it's pretty, warm and bright,
One stoopéd ape picked up a fire-brand,
And banished cold, and predators, and night.

Encumbered, thus unfettered, torch in hand,
An ape, tempered by fire, became a man.

29 posted on 05/30/2002 7:11:55 AM PDT by Physicist
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To: Physicist
To prove that I'm a crackpot, I've cast my hypothesis into the form of a sonnet:

Hey now!

Actually, I believe there's some merit to your theory...

Man evolved bipedalism to make fire and free their hands for shadow puppets.




30 posted on 05/30/2002 7:17:50 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Sabertooth
Man evolved bipedalism to make fire

Actually, I believe that bipedalism helped the hominids to carry fire. Making it came much later, I believe.

Fire occurs naturally. There are parts of Africa that burn every year. There are many reasons why an intelligent creature would be attracted to fire: it's interesting to look at, it gives light and heat, it scares away predators, it kills and cooks animals that lie there to be consumed.

I imagine that our ancestors made a habit out of looking for fire and staying near it. After a while, the fire dies out, and they have to move on. But wait a minute: fires can be fed and kept alive. I'll bet a chimp can learn to do that. Furthermore, it can be carried around from place to place.

Ah, but now look: the ape with the torch has gained a very serious, immediate survival advantage. Sabertooths (no offense) are suddenly no problem. Walking and seeing at night, no problem. Impressing the ladies, well, naturally.

This, I believe, solves one of the great problems of the evolution of bipedalism: a half-bipedal creature doesn't make much sense. The survival advantage conferred by partial bipedalism has to be immediate and huge, to get "over the hump".

Tool use is one obvious thing that can do this, but first of all, hominids were walking several million years before their brains expanded, second of all, there's not much need to carry tools that can be obtained whenever needed (sticks and stones are everywhere), and third, use of the simplest stone tools (unfashioned rocks used as hammers) doesn't appear in the fossil record until well after bipedalism. (Recent discoveries put the gap at longer than the two million years in my sonnet, which I wrote two summers ago.)

So, I really think fire is it.

31 posted on 05/30/2002 7:39:39 AM PDT by Physicist
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To: Physicist
A couple of thoughts...

Chimps aren't fully bipedal, and make tools now.

But the rudimentary and disposable tools they make aren't likely to be the kinds of artifacts that archaeologists will find in a few million years.



32 posted on 05/30/2002 7:45:20 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Sabertooth
Why can't humans swim from birth?

Why can't humans WALK from birth? Obviously, we must not be land animals.

Seriously, human infants can swim. I once saw a video of an experiment in which a young infant was put in water, and it instinctively began kicking and paddling with its arms. Apparently, this ability disappears rather quickly in an early child's development, unless it is nurtured. I understand that it disappears entirely after the first six months or so.

Moreover, the Aquatic Ape theory holds that we (obviously) never completed the transition to a purely aquatic species, like whales, or even sea lions.

33 posted on 05/30/2002 8:16:19 AM PDT by Maceman
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To: Maceman
Moreover, the Aquatic Ape theory holds that we (obviously) never completed the transition to a purely aquatic species, like whales, or even sea lions.

Glad you brought that up.

Have you noticed that only the fully aquatic cetaceans have shed their body hair? But isn't the aquatic lifestyle Elaine Morgan's explanation for why humans are almost hairless?

Further, we've got all kinds of fossils of the various families of aquatic mammals. Water is good for fossil-making.

Where are the aquatic ape fossils?




34 posted on 05/30/2002 8:24:13 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Physicist
Hmmm. Does evidence for campfires (as opposed to natural fires) predate tools?
35 posted on 05/30/2002 8:29:13 AM PDT by VadeRetro
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To: Sabertooth
Have you noticed that only the fully aquatic cetaceans have shed their body hair?

If I recall correctly (I haven't read Elaine Morgan's book since 1969), she makes the point that other semi-aquatic animals, such as hippopotami, have also lost most of their hair.

Besides, we have not completely lost our hair -- certainly not to the point of dolphins and whales. Moreover, the hair that remains on us grows in patterns that are more consistently found in aquatic mammals that still have their hair. This pattern tends to follow the flow of water over the bodies of a forward swimming animal.

Now here's one for you -- how come none of the other primates cry salty tears, which is something only associated with aquatic mammals?

36 posted on 05/30/2002 8:38:19 AM PDT by Maceman
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To: Maceman
Moreover, the hair that remains on us grows in patterns that are more consistently found in aquatic mammals that still have their hair.

What aquatic mammals have hair primarily on their heads, armpits, and pubic regions?

Now here's one for you -- how come none of the other primates cry salty tears, which is something only associated with aquatic mammals?

I don't know. Do otters have salty tears?

Are their non-aquatic non-primates with salty tears?

There are a lot of things different about humans. Our hairlessness, our pronounced sexual dimorphism (pendulous breasts on non-nursing females), our brains, our posture, the lack of a penile bone in males (other primates have them), the helplessness of our babies, our relative physical weakness, etc... and we don't have a lot of the answers as to why these things are the way they are.

But we also don't have a single fossil of an aquatic ape.




37 posted on 05/30/2002 8:54:36 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Sabertooth
BTW, are you just opposed to the Aquatic Ape theory because you favor the kind of Savannah Ape theory espoused by Desmond Morris, or because you oppose the idea of evolution altogether? Do you prefer the creation story of Genesis?

In any event, Regarding our ongoing debate about the Aquatic Ape, perhaps you will find this article -- particularly the part called "Interpreting the Power of Water" -- to be of interest. I did.

The Natural Child Project - All children behave as well as they are treated.


 

Releasing the Brakes with Water
(Excerpt from Chapter 15 of The Scientification of Love)
By Dr. Michel Odent

Learning from women

My own interest in the powerful influence of water on human beings developed at a time when I was exploring how the environment might influence the physiology of birth. It was apparent that many laboring women are attracted to water, wanting to have a shower or a bath. One day I went to a shop in the high street of our town and I bought an inflatable blue children's paddling pool.1 This was the beginning of the history of hospital birthing pools. As soon as the pool was installed I was faced with the most intriguing aspects of the human fascination with water. I could tell countless stories about laboring women whose attraction to water was so irresistible that they frustrated the best laid plans of the hospital staff. As soon as the tap was turned on, some of them could not wait to get into the pool and stepped in while there was no more than an inch of water in the bottom. The first lesson we learnt was that while the laboring woman is anticipating getting into the pool - hearing the noise of running water and seeing the blue water in a room that was painted blue with dolphins on the walls - it was as if a brake was already being released.

Beyond daily practice

Some time afterwards I began to realize how universal that tremendous attraction to water is during labor. In tropical countries, in places where quiet water was available, women often gave birth close to a river, or a lake or the sea. The aborigines of the west coast of Australia used to walk in shallow water before giving birth on the beach. It is probable that women relaxed and even gave birth in warm calm water in places as far apart as what is today called Columbia and Panama, some of the Polynesian islands, or some of the southern Japanese islands. It is also probable that in countries with non-tropical climates, the attraction to water in labor may have been stifled simply because hot and cold water from the tap was not available. However, this attraction could express itself in other subtle ways. At the beginning of this century, when most babies were born at home, the father used to spend hours boiling water. This ritual could be seen as an unconscious attempt to include water in the process of birth.

The similarities between the mysterious influence of water on the birth process and the erotic power of water are striking.2 It would take volumes to make an in depth study about the way in which the erotic power of water has been an inspiration to poets, painters, film makers, novelists, advertising agents, or restaurant owners, for example. And where do a young couple dream of going when they plan their honeymoon?

A watery environment also seems to beneficially affect the "milk ejection reflex". Certain breastfeeding advisers know how to take advantage of the sound of water. It can help women who have to express their milk with a breast pump if they do it in the shower. What is more, the "oceanic" feeling of mystical emotions is more likely to manifest itself on a beach, or by a river, or a lake.

Interpreting the power of water

It is easy to convince anyone of the mysterious effect of water on our human neocortical brakes. The real question is, Is this effect an aspect of our mammalian condition, or is our powerful relationship with water a specifically human trait? After all, all mammals, including the primates, spend their fetal life in water; yet there are some compelling reasons to claim that humans beings should be studied in depth from that point of view.

Today there is a tendency to consider Homo as a primate who adapted to living on the coast during certain phases of the evolutionary process. Any study of human nature should start from one fundamental and inescapable question : what sort of environment was homo originally adapted to?

In the case of other species of mammals in general - and primates in particular - it is easy to answer such a question. It is clear, for example, that the common chimpanzees were originally adapted to the African tropical forest and spent much of their time in the trees, while baboons adapted to the drier areas of Arabia and Africa and lived mainly on the ground. As for Homo, scientists can only offer hypotheses and theories.

In the current scientific context, it is well accepted that Homo separated from the other chimpanzees about six million years ago. Until recently, the favorite scenario was that our ancestors abandoned life in the trees to live on the open plain. According to the "Savannah" theory this change of habitat is the crucial factor that precipitated the emergence of Homo. Yet today there are many serious reasons to dismiss the "Savannah" theory - principally because the presumed period for the emergence of savannah conditions in Africa has been reassessed by new dating of the explosion of different species of hoof-footed mammals, pollen analysis, and closer examination of fossils of small mammals found in association with fossils of hominids.3 It appears that the emergence of the savannah occurred after the origin of the human family. Furthermore, we must bear in mind that the bones of our ancestor, the famous Lucy (Australopithecus Afarensis) were found eroding from the sand, lying among turtle and crocodile eggs and crab claws. And the bones of an older Australopithecus, found near Lake Rudolph in Kenya in 1995 were surrounded by many fossil vertebrates including fish and aquatic reptiles.4

We must also keep in mind that even though the human family emerged several million years ago, Homo Sapiens - the modern human being - is a young species. It is worth noticing that the oldest known footprints of a modern human being - dating back 117,000 years ago - have been found on the shore of a South African lagoon.

At the very time of the collapse of the "Savannah" theory, an alternative hypothesis - often called the Aquatic Ape theory -is gradually gaining ground and filling the gaps. Quite independently, Max Westenhofer in Berlin (as early as 1942)5 and Alister Hardy in Oxford in 19606 underlined that several of the differences between Homo and the other apes suggest an adaptation to a semi-aquatic environment. Since these pioneering works, the aquatic ape theory has developed and has been constantly updated thanks to the enthusiastic, creative and persevering work of Elaine Morgan.7,8,9 

Although, from a genetic perspective, we are a sort of chimpanzee (sharing 98.5% of our genes), dozens of features make us different from our close relatives. All these features are compatible with an adaptation to the coast.

Bipedalism - standing, walking and running upright - has been at the root of the theory from the beginning. Both Westenhofer and Hardy suggested that bipedalism was first adopted under duress, by ancestors of the human family confronted by the necessity of wading through water. It is well known that human babies can walk in shallow water before being able to walk on dry land. It is also noticeable that the only primate in the wild who regularly walks on two feet is the proboscis monkey of Borneo - a primate that is frequently constrained to walk in shallow water. One possible scenario among others is that some of our ancestors were isolated on an island when a part of East Africa was covered by the sea.

 When ancestors of the human family established bipedalism as their usual mode of locomotion, favorable conditions were met for a dramatic development of the brain. An upright posture is easily compatible with an increased head weight (we can only carry heavy weights on our heads when we are upright). Also, the coastal food chain is the best possible environment in which to find unlimited quantities of all the nutrients that are essential for brain development. Among these nutrients are the long chain omega-3 fatty acids that are abundant and preformed in seafood.10 As soon as they had access to the coastal food chain our ancestors had an ideal balance of nutrients from the land and from the sea at their disposal, and so could develop their full potential.11,12

In the 1990s a further factor has added its weight to the list of scientific data supporting the aquatic ape theory, which is our better knowledge of the specific nutritional needs of the developing brain. Until now it was impossible to explain why the human brain is four times bigger than the brain of other chimpanzees and that, in terms of the proportion of gray matter to the total brain mass, there is no difference between homo and unrelated mammals such as dolphins. One of the most mysterious aspects of human nature for modern biologists is that we have to feed an enormous brain yet our body is not very efficient at making one of the molecules ("DHA") which is essential to meet the needs of the nervous system.

Nakedness has been identified as one of the most specifically human traits since the biblical book of Genesis. It was being discussed as a scientific mystery at the time of Darwin, who rejected the notion that it was our best protection against the many skin parasites found in tropical regions, arguing that, if it was the case, other animals living in the tropics would have got rid of their hairy coats to cope with the same problem. In fact, any attempt to interpret human nakedness should start with a reminder of the main function of fur, which is to protect from variations in temperature by maintaining a layer of air around the body. In water there is no need for fur. The absence of hair is a characteristic of most sea-mammals. The only ones that keep their fur are those that can get out of the water and stay on land in a cold climate, such a seals, otters and beavers. Our subcutaneous layer of fat is as mysterious as our nakedness. It is not a feature we share with other apes although it is a point we have in common with many mammals adapted to the sea. In addition, we sweat in order to control our body temperature, and of all mammals we have the highest sweat production. Sweating has long been considered an enigma, or a mistake of nature as it depletes the body of large amounts of water and salt. This makes no sense at all to those thinkers who see humans, first and foremost, as primates who keep the characteristics of a fetus or a baby until adulthood. (In fact the human baby does not control its temperature by sweating for the first few weeks after birth). New interpretations of this sweating mechanism become possible when we consider human beings as primates who have adapted to environments where water and salt are freely available. In fact, fur seals are the only other mammals who sweat when they are overheated on land (they sweat on their naked hind flippers). Therefore sweating is yet another human trait that is compatible with adaptation to the coast.

We might focus on many other intriguing human traits such as the triangle of skin we have between our thumbs and forefingers (similar to the webbing on a duck's feet), the fact that our big toes are jointed to the others, the anatomy of our respiratory tract, or the number of blood cells per cubic millimeter. All these features suggest that we are adapted to a semi-aquatic environment.

Another feature peculiar to humans is the expression of emotion with tears. This is not incompatible with an adaptation to the sea, since marine iguanas, turtles, marine crocodiles, sea snakes, seals and sea otters weep salt tears, while land mammals have no tears or any sort of nasal salt gland. The human lachrymal glands might be interpreted as a vestige of an extra mechanism for eliminating salt. 

We might also look at one of the main obvious differences when you compare a photo of a man and a photo of a chimpanzee. One has a nose and the other only has two breathing holes. The long nose is a feature we have in common with the proboscis monkey who is a swimmer adapted to the coast. 

Another intriguing phenomenon needs interpretation and is also supportive of this new vision of homo sapiens. Consider the fact that the two wonder drugs of the last half of this century are fish oils and aspirin. It has been claimed that these can remedy an astonishing variety of conditions and, particularly specifically human diseases. Fish oil capsules have been found to reduce the risk or the effects of coronary heart disease, hyper-cholesterolemia, hypertension, psoriasis and other skin diseases, migraines, painful menstruation, different forms of rheumatism, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, poor adaptation to darkness, allergic diseases, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, pre-eclampsia, fetal growth retardation, and even some cancers. As for aspirin, it is undoubtedly the most commonly used medicinal agent in the world, and, like fish oils, can modify the metabolism of an important family of cell regulators called prostaglandins. It is as if a very large number of humans are finding they need the same sort of correction to their metabolism of prostaglandins. Theoretically, from a biochemical point of view, people who have easy access to the sea-food chain would have no need of such correction. Perhaps these modern panaceas offer us a new perspective from which to explore human nature.

This new vision of homo sapiens as an ape adapted to life on the coast represents such a radical change in the current understanding of human nature that it will take a long time to digest it. It signifies another vital aspect of the scientific revolution going on today. It is developing at the same time as the scientification of Love. It helps us to understand why human beings feel more secure in a watery environment and enables us to interpret the magic power of water on human beings.

Summary

There are similarities between the erotic power of water, the mysterious power of water on the birth process and the way in which an aquatic environment can be used to facilitate lactation. Water, as a symbol, helps humans to feel secure in a great variety of circumstances. What is the root cause of these cross-cultural effects?

References

1 Odent M. Birth under water. Lancet, 1983:1476-77.
2 Odent M. Water and Sexuality. Arkana (Penguin), 1990.
3 Leakey R, Lewin R. Origins reconsidered. Little, Brown. 1992.
4 Leakey MG, et al . New four million year old hominid species. Nature, 1995;376:565-71
5 Westenhofer M. Der Eigenweg des menschen. Mannstaede and Co. Berlin, 1942.
6 Hardy A. Was Man more aquatic in the past? New Scientist, 1060;7:642-5
7 Morgan E. The Descent of Woman. Souvenir Press, London 1972.
8 Morgan E. The Aquatic Ape. Souvenir Press, London 1982.
9 Morgan E. The Scars of Evolution. Souvenir Press, London 1990.
10 Crawford M, Marsh D. The Driving Force. Heinneman, London 1989.
11 Odent M, McMillan L, Kimmel T. Prenatal care and seafish. Eur. J. Obstet. Gynecol. 1996;68: 49-51.
12 Odent M. The Primary Human Disease: An evolutionary Perspective. ReVision, 1995;18, 2:19-21.

Excerpted and reprinted by permission of the author from Chapter 15 of The Scientification of Love.

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38 posted on 05/30/2002 9:14:22 AM PDT by Maceman
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To: Maceman
BTW, are you just opposed to the Aquatic Ape theory because you favor the kind of Savannah Ape theory espoused by Desmond Morris, or because you oppose the idea of evolution altogether? Do you prefer the creation story of Genesis?

As for Genesis, I believe it is a divinely inspired allegory for the origins of man, of which I believe evolution is an important facet.

I believe in evolution because I believe in the standard biological interpretation of the fossil evidence. As for anthropology, we have a long way to go before we've got the whole story figured out...

But we've got fossil evidence for savannah apes, and none for aquatic ones.

And it's a heck of a lot easier to make a fossil in water than on a savannah.

Further, our closest relative, the chimpanzee, is a lot closer to being a savannah ape than an aquatic one. In fact when you look at living primates, you don't find an aquatic one in the bunch.




39 posted on 05/30/2002 9:23:12 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Sabertooth
Chimps aren't fully bipedal, and make tools now.

But the rudimentary and disposable tools they make aren't likely to be the kinds of artifacts that archaeologists will find in a few million years.

True, but they also aren't the kind of tools that anybody would need to carry around. You'd want to carry around either tools that were difficult to make or tools that couldn't be easily and immediately obtained. Furthermore, I would expect rude stone hammers to be employed early on in the toolmaking tradition. It's not out of the question that sophisticated organic-material toolmaking existed long before it occurred to anyone to pick up a rock to crack a nut, but it seems unlikely, in my opinion. It's somewhat surprising to me that chimps don't do this even now, and it's certainly surprising that early hominids didn't do it, but they just didn't.

40 posted on 05/30/2002 9:28:44 AM PDT by Physicist
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To: VadeRetro
Does evidence for campfires (as opposed to natural fires) predate tools?

Good question, I don't know. However, I imagine that the earliest campfires were probably indistinguishable from natural fires. In a real sense, according to my hypothesis, the earliest campfires were natural fires.

41 posted on 05/30/2002 9:33:42 AM PDT by Physicist
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To: Sabertooth
But we've got fossil evidence for savannah apes, and none for aquatic ones.

If I may re-direct your attention to some comments from Dr. Odent's article, which I recently posted for your benefit:

It appears that the emergence of the savannah occurred after the origin of the human family. Furthermore, we must bear in mind that the bones of our ancestor, the famous Lucy (Australopithecus Afarensis) were found eroding from the sand, lying among turtle and crocodile eggs and crab claws. And the bones of an older Australopithecus, found near Lake Rudolph in Kenya in 1995 were surrounded by many fossil vertebrates including fish and aquatic reptiles.

We must also keep in mind that even though the human family emerged several million years ago, Homo Sapiens - the modern human being - is a young species. It is worth noticing that the oldest known footprints of a modern human being - dating back 117,000 years ago - have been found on the shore of a South African lagoon.

42 posted on 05/30/2002 9:36:20 AM PDT by Maceman
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To: Physicist
Furthermore, I would expect rude stone hammers to be employed early on in the toolmaking tradition. It's not out of the question that sophisticated organic-material toolmaking existed long before it occurred to anyone to pick up a rock to crack a nut, but it seems unlikely, in my opinion. It's somewhat surprising to me that chimps don't do this even now, and it's certainly surprising that early hominids didn't do it, but they just didn't.

A meandering reply...

How rude can the hammer be?

(I'm trying to remember the anthropological name for clearly artificially fashioned stone tools... something-liths.)

I might be recalling incorrectly, but when Jane Goodall observed the Chimp Wars in N'Goro N'Goro in the 70s, weren't rocks (and branches) used?

I think I've seen reports of chimps using rocks, but if you happened across one, you wouldn't know it was a "tool" of any kind. Seems to me the artificial fashioning of sticks would certainly predate the artificial fashioning of rocks.

I wonder... have any experiments ever been attempted at teaching chimps to make spears and stone tools? Could this learned info be passed on to other chimps?

I've read of a breakthrough among the Japanese snow monkeys which live on the coast. Within the last several decades, one female was observed tossing sandy seeds into shallow pools of water. The sand sank, the seeds floated, and she had a clean meal. Other monkeys learned the technique, and now the whole clan apes the practice (couldn't resist).

I'm guessing that some of the development of toolmaking is going to be cultural like this, awaiting that "eureka" moment when some ape figrued out how to make a rock or stick a little sharper, and the others learned by example.

Part of the problem with labor intensive tools would be having a practical place to keep them... either in a relatively permanent residence (which I don't think chimps generally have), or in some sort of bag, which would likely have come later.




43 posted on 05/30/2002 9:48:55 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Maceman
Interesting. I've subscribed to the aquatic ape theory for quite some time. However, I am quite aware that there is a dearth of fossil evidence to support this theory, even if the physiological evidence for it is quite strong.
44 posted on 05/30/2002 9:50:43 AM PDT by Junior
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To: Sabertooth
If you read the article posted, you'd know that human babies are quite capable of swimming from birth (indeed, some folks actually give birth in swimming pools to ease the process).
45 posted on 05/30/2002 9:53:33 AM PDT by Junior
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To: Sabertooth
How rude can the hammer be?

An unfashioned rock off the ground. When someone picks up a rock in his hand and strikes it repeatedly against an anvil of some kind (another rock, typically), it acquires an identifiable pattern of pits and scratches that remain indefinitely. At some point in the fossil record, you start finding rocks that exhibit this wear pattern, but before that, nothing. Apparently these things are common; after all, the "fossilization" rate is near 100%.

46 posted on 05/30/2002 9:58:41 AM PDT by Physicist
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To: Junior
If you read the article posted, you'd know that human babies are quite capable of swimming from birth (indeed, some folks actually give birth in swimming pools to ease the process).

I'm a former swim coach and have taught babies to "swim." They've got a breathholding reflex which enables them to float and can pump their limbs a little, but they don't have a natural instinct or capacity for swimming.




47 posted on 05/30/2002 9:59:40 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Physicist
When someone picks up a rock in his hand and strikes it repeatedly against an anvil of some kind (another rock, typically), it acquires an identifiable pattern of pits and scratches that remain indefinitely.

The key word being "repeatedly," meaning the same favored rock gets used. That means some practical place to keep it.

But stone tools can be much cruder than that, if the rocks are used once and then discarded. And no consistent wear pattern would result.




48 posted on 05/30/2002 10:02:57 AM PDT by Sabertooth
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To: Sabertooth
The key word being "repeatedly," meaning the same favored rock gets used.

I could be wrong, but I believe the threshold for "repeatedly" is only a few whacks in one spot, enough to distinguish it from the natural bumping and grinding of stones. A couple of nuts should do it.

49 posted on 05/30/2002 10:09:55 AM PDT by Physicist
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To: Sabertooth
Oops, I forgot the second part:

But stone tools can be much cruder than that, if the rocks are used once and then discarded. And no consistent wear pattern would result.

That's true, but then, there's no need to carry those. If tools are the key to bipedalism, "favored" rocks (as opposed to single-use rocks) would appear around the same time as bipedalism.

50 posted on 05/30/2002 10:16:02 AM PDT by Physicist
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