Dear PSSA members, colleagues, and friends,
The end of 2023 is rapidly approaching and 2024 is the year for the PSSA gathering in Graaff -Reinet, Eastern Cape Province, so here is an update to facilitate your planning.
Hypothetical relationships between Australopithecus, Early Homo, and Paranthropus in the context of a TERAVEGANT GENEMORPH (TG) model
Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Homo are three hominin genera which existed on the African continent during the Plio-Pleistocene. All three genera are represented in Southern Africa (SA) and Eastern Africa (EA), including (among others) A. afarensis (EA), A. africanus (SA) and A. prometheus (SA); P. aethiopicus (EA), P. robustus (SA) and P. boisei (EA); H. habilis (EA), H. rudolfensis (EA), and H. erectus (EA and SA). Phylogenetic relationships between these species are the subject of much debate among palaeoanthropologists, many of whom accept that there are clear boundaries between species, using alpha taxonomy. However, in the context of palaeoecological changes, such boundaries may not always have existed - hence the need for a probabilistic approach such as (for instance) sigma taxonomy. [1,2]
PalNews is an important part of the PSSA. The very first PalNews issue came out in 1977 and over the last 46 years there have been a total of 81 issues of the biannual newsletter. These cover all aspects of palaeontology in southern Africa. From fieldtrips to lab news, from conference attendances to information on the latest research from the community.
In the October issue of PalNews (Thackeray, 2023) I presented a scenario to try to reach closure on the “Piltdown Case”, involving a hoax (intended as a joke) whereby fragments of a human skull (stained brown) were buried together with a broken jaw of an orangutan (also stained brown) at Piltdown in England in 1912, constituting “Eoanthropus dawsoni (Woodward, 1912)”. Here I present an Addendum regarding the joke that went seriously wrong after it had been accepted by palaeontologists as a genuine “ape-man” with a large brain but an ape-like jaw.