Ian Tattersall's The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About PDF

By Ian Tattersall

ISBN-10: 0195061012

ISBN-13: 9780195061017

ISBN-10: 0195109813

ISBN-13: 9780195109818

Some of the most notable fossil unearths in background happened in Laetoli, Tanzania, in 1974, whilst anthropologist Andrew Hill (diving to the floor to prevent a lump of elephant dung thrown through a colleague) got here nose to nose with a suite of old footprints captured in stone--the earliest recorded steps of our distant human ancestors, a few 3 million years previous. this present day we will see a game of the making of the Laetoli footprints on the American Museum of average historical past, in a gorgeous diorama which depicts of our human forebears jogging aspect by way of part via a snowy panorama of volcanic ash. yet how will we comprehend what those three-million-year-old kin gave the impression of? How have we reconstructed the eons-long trip from our first old steps to the place we stand at the present time? in brief, how can we comprehend what we expect we all know approximately human evolution? within the Fossil path, Ian Tattersall, the top of the Anthropology division on the American Museum of usual heritage, takes us on a sweeping travel of the examine of human evolution, delivering a colourful heritage of fossil discoveries and a revealing insider's examine how those reveals were interpreted--and misinterpreted--through time. all of the significant figures and discoveries are the following. We meet Lamarck and Cuvier and Darwin (we examine that Darwin's concept of evolution, notwithstanding a bombshell, used to be very congenial to a Victorian ethos of progress), correct as much as sleek theorists reminiscent of Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould. Tattersall describes Dubois's paintings in Java, the numerous discoveries in South Africa via pioneers corresponding to Raymond Dart and Robert Broom, Louis and Mary Leakey's paintings at Olduvai Gorge, Don Johanson's recognized discovery of "Lucy" (a 3.4 million-year-old girl hominid, a few forty% complete), and the newer discovery of the "Turkana Boy," much more entire than "Lucy," and remarkably just like sleek human skeletons. He discusses the various innovations on hand to investigate unearths, from fluorine research (developed within the Nineteen Fifties, it uncovered Piltdown as a hoax) and radiocarbon relationship to such sleek concepts as electron spin resonance and the research of human mitochondrial DNA. He offers us a succinct photo of what we almost immediately imagine our "family tree" seems like, with at the very least 3 genera and maybe a dozen species via time (though he warns that this vastly underestimates the particular range of hominids during the last million or so years). And he paints a brilliant, insider's portrait of paleoanthropology, the dogged paintings within the broiling solar, looking for a teeth, or a fractured nook of bone, amid stone muddle and shadows, without warrantly of ever discovering something. and maybe most crucial, Tattersall appears in any respect those nice researchers and discoveries in the context in their social and clinical milleu, to bare the insidious ways in which the got knowledge can form how we interpret fossil findings, that what we think to discover shades our figuring out of what we do locate. Refreshingly opinionated and vividly narrated, The Fossil path is the one booklet on hand to common readers that gives a whole heritage of our examine of human evolution. a desirable tale with interesting turns alongside the best way, this well-illustrated quantity is vital examining for an individual keen on our human origins.

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Additional resources for The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution (First Edition)

Example text

But he soon changed his mind.  In later years Dubois dropped his estimate of the brain volume of the Trinil skullcap to 900 ml; modern calculations place it at 940 ml.  As to the age of his Pithecanthropus, Dubois conjectured from the huge associated fauna that the specimens dated from the late Pliocene or early Pleistocene, intermediate between the Indian Siwalik fauna and the human specimens known from the late Pleistocene of Europe.  Instead it stood between them, as the notion of evolution suggested some creature must have done.

Each individual receives one allele from each parent.  What's more, Mendel found that each discrete trait (stature, seed color) might turn up in combination with any other; each was transmitted independently.  In most cases, as suggested by the fact that offspring tend overall to look a bit like both parents, most physical characters are influenced by more than one gene—which usually occur on different chromosomes—while most genes affect more than one character.  And although it took several decades for the systematists, paleontologists and geneticists to come together on this issue, when they did so it was to have profound implications for the future of evolutionary biology.

As to the age of his Pithecanthropus, Dubois conjectured from the huge associated fauna that the specimens dated from the late Pliocene or early Pleistocene, intermediate between the Indian Siwalik fauna and the human specimens known from the late Pleistocene of Europe.  Instead it stood between them, as the notion of evolution suggested some creature must have done.  And while he finally decided to place it in its own family, Pithecanthropidae, Dubois continually returned in his description to comparisons with the chimpanzee and the gibbon.

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The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution (First Edition) by Ian Tattersall

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