Battle of the Ape-men: the splitters v the lumpers

Ever since we have been following human evolution(and it’s a long, long time) we’ve noticed one constant thread: the splitters v the lumpers. Outsiders may require a little gloss at this point, so here goes

Splitters: Tend to give every new fossil they dig up a new species name wherever possible. Live in a world of bones, measurements, cladistics and statistics. We could fill a paragraph with the names of species and genera they have named and, quite often, change. Have made most of the running for the last 100 years or so, but:

Lumpers Tend to downplay the extent of the differences between all the different bones and look for long lineages changing slowly in time. Recently have received support from advanced DNA and other genetic studies which suggest modern human DNA is a “mosaic” of bits from different places in space and time. And some of it from beings whom the splitters insist were not fully human.

It is in this light that we invite you to look at this fascinating piece by Yan Wong and Antony Wilder Wohns for the Conversation.[1] They’ve tried to pull together gene sequences from all kinds of humans, including Neanderthals and Denisovans, and have a fascinating animated graphic suggesting a true origin in Africa for us all, maybe around 2 million years ago. Splitters will love that this seems to fit with the appearance of Homo erectus/ergaster-but still can’t decide if they were one and the same.

Learning goes on in every field (and will even survive Mr Putin) and scholars will always fight over small differences, as their shaggy ancestors did long ago. Meanwhile, keep smiling, keep an open mind, and delight in every new discovery of human intelligence. We will win in the long run.

[1] https://theconversation.com/were-analysing-dna-from-ancient-and-modern-humans-to-create-a-family-tree-of-everyone-177603?u

#human evolution #genetics #clade #species #dna #rna #protein #mitochondria #out of africa

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