From australopithecus to homo

The transition that wasn’t

William Kimbel, Brian Villmoare

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although the transition from Australopithecus to Homo is usually thought of as a momentous transformation, the fossil record bearing on the origin and earliest evolution of Homo is virtually undocumented. As a result, the poles of the transition are frequently attached to taxa (e.g. A. afarensis, at ca 3.0 Ma versus H. habilis or H. erectus, at ca 2.0-1.7 Ma) in which substantial adaptive differences have accumulated over significant spans of independent evolution. Such comparisons, in which temporally remote and adaptively divergent species are used to identify a ‘transition’, lend credence to the idea that genera should be conceived at once as monophyletic clades and adaptively unified grades. However, when the problem is recast in terms of lineages, rather than taxa per se, the adaptive criterion becomes a problem of subjectively privileging ‘key’ characteristics from what is typically a stepwise pattern of acquisition of novel characters beginning in the basal representatives of a clade. This is the pattern inferred for species usually included in early Homo, including H. erectus, which has often been cast in the role as earliest humanlike hominin. A fresh look at brain size, hand morphology and earliest technology suggests that a number of key Homo attributes may already be present in generalized species of Australopithecus, and that adaptive distinctions in Homo are simply amplifications or extensions of ancient hominin trends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20150248
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume371
Issue number1698
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 5 2016

Fingerprint

Bearings (structural)
Hominidae
Homo
Amplification
Poles
Brain
fossil record
brain
amplification
Fossils
hands
fossils
Hand
Technology

Keywords

  • Australopithecus
  • Early homo
  • Transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

From australopithecus to homo : The transition that wasn’t. / Kimbel, William; Villmoare, Brian.

In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 371, No. 1698, 20150248, 05.07.2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

@article{0f37ade0c8284a7ba0ddb35fddcb38fd,
title = "From australopithecus to homo: The transition that wasn’t",
abstract = "Although the transition from Australopithecus to Homo is usually thought of as a momentous transformation, the fossil record bearing on the origin and earliest evolution of Homo is virtually undocumented. As a result, the poles of the transition are frequently attached to taxa (e.g. A. afarensis, at ca 3.0 Ma versus H. habilis or H. erectus, at ca 2.0-1.7 Ma) in which substantial adaptive differences have accumulated over significant spans of independent evolution. Such comparisons, in which temporally remote and adaptively divergent species are used to identify a ‘transition’, lend credence to the idea that genera should be conceived at once as monophyletic clades and adaptively unified grades. However, when the problem is recast in terms of lineages, rather than taxa per se, the adaptive criterion becomes a problem of subjectively privileging ‘key’ characteristics from what is typically a stepwise pattern of acquisition of novel characters beginning in the basal representatives of a clade. This is the pattern inferred for species usually included in early Homo, including H. erectus, which has often been cast in the role as earliest humanlike hominin. A fresh look at brain size, hand morphology and earliest technology suggests that a number of key Homo attributes may already be present in generalized species of Australopithecus, and that adaptive distinctions in Homo are simply amplifications or extensions of ancient hominin trends.",
keywords = "Australopithecus, Early homo, Transition",
author = "William Kimbel and Brian Villmoare",
year = "2016",
month = "7",
day = "5",
doi = "10.1098/rstb.2015.0248",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "371",
journal = "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences",
issn = "0800-4622",
publisher = "Royal Society of London",
number = "1698",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - From australopithecus to homo

T2 - The transition that wasn’t

AU - Kimbel, William

AU - Villmoare, Brian

PY - 2016/7/5

Y1 - 2016/7/5

N2 - Although the transition from Australopithecus to Homo is usually thought of as a momentous transformation, the fossil record bearing on the origin and earliest evolution of Homo is virtually undocumented. As a result, the poles of the transition are frequently attached to taxa (e.g. A. afarensis, at ca 3.0 Ma versus H. habilis or H. erectus, at ca 2.0-1.7 Ma) in which substantial adaptive differences have accumulated over significant spans of independent evolution. Such comparisons, in which temporally remote and adaptively divergent species are used to identify a ‘transition’, lend credence to the idea that genera should be conceived at once as monophyletic clades and adaptively unified grades. However, when the problem is recast in terms of lineages, rather than taxa per se, the adaptive criterion becomes a problem of subjectively privileging ‘key’ characteristics from what is typically a stepwise pattern of acquisition of novel characters beginning in the basal representatives of a clade. This is the pattern inferred for species usually included in early Homo, including H. erectus, which has often been cast in the role as earliest humanlike hominin. A fresh look at brain size, hand morphology and earliest technology suggests that a number of key Homo attributes may already be present in generalized species of Australopithecus, and that adaptive distinctions in Homo are simply amplifications or extensions of ancient hominin trends.

AB - Although the transition from Australopithecus to Homo is usually thought of as a momentous transformation, the fossil record bearing on the origin and earliest evolution of Homo is virtually undocumented. As a result, the poles of the transition are frequently attached to taxa (e.g. A. afarensis, at ca 3.0 Ma versus H. habilis or H. erectus, at ca 2.0-1.7 Ma) in which substantial adaptive differences have accumulated over significant spans of independent evolution. Such comparisons, in which temporally remote and adaptively divergent species are used to identify a ‘transition’, lend credence to the idea that genera should be conceived at once as monophyletic clades and adaptively unified grades. However, when the problem is recast in terms of lineages, rather than taxa per se, the adaptive criterion becomes a problem of subjectively privileging ‘key’ characteristics from what is typically a stepwise pattern of acquisition of novel characters beginning in the basal representatives of a clade. This is the pattern inferred for species usually included in early Homo, including H. erectus, which has often been cast in the role as earliest humanlike hominin. A fresh look at brain size, hand morphology and earliest technology suggests that a number of key Homo attributes may already be present in generalized species of Australopithecus, and that adaptive distinctions in Homo are simply amplifications or extensions of ancient hominin trends.

KW - Australopithecus

KW - Early homo

KW - Transition

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84974661240&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84974661240&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1098/rstb.2015.0248

DO - 10.1098/rstb.2015.0248

M3 - Review article

VL - 371

JO - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

JF - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

SN - 0800-4622

IS - 1698

M1 - 20150248

ER -