Orrorin opera

2 minute read

There's a new paper by Tim White in the "In Press" portion of Comptes Rendus Palevol, titled "Early hominid femora: The inside story". It has a short introduction to the importance of the Orrorin proximal femur to understanding the evolution of hominid bipedality.

That short introduction is followed by an four-page-long description of White's correspondence attempting to get photographs, scans, and measurements of Orrorin. He quotes his own e-mails. With dates. I've never seen anything quite like it in a journal.

The review ends with this paragraph:

It is unclear why the Orrorin discovery team and its associates will not publish the comparatively very simple conventional radiography and conventional photography of the unglued BAR 1002'00 femoral neck that we have urged on numerous occasions (see above) since 2001. Martin Pickford and Brigitte Senut mysteriously did not join the list of authors who responded to our last, published request for these data in our February 2005 letter to Science. Their American colleagues responded: "it is our understanding that the initial studies were carried out under serious constraints of time and other resources [...] and we have made it clear that we plan to rescan and study the existing fossils if funds are made available" [5 (p. 845)]. We were again disappointed because we had asked for the publication of new data, not the promotion of a funding request for documentation long overdue.

This quote refers to the 2005 exchange between Ohman, Lovejoy and White on the one hand and Eckhardt, Galik and Kuperavage on the other. Read it too.

The cited response ends with this paragraph:

As far as phylogenetic speculations, a fuller understanding of the first several million years of human ancestry awaits the outcome of studies (already under way by other members of our research group) of the equivocal hominoid remains from Chad, as well as some much more comprehensive results from the by now decade-long analysis of the Ardipithecus (née Australopithecus) ramidus fossils, the reported fragility of which nonetheless should not preclude the making of CT scans and publication of what they show.

Well, I know which of these folks have shared data with me...

I have an idea for a contest. Please send your best punchline for the following joke, and I'll post the top ten (let me know if you want credit!):

How is Bigfoot different from a Miocene hominid?


Eckhardt RB, Galik K, Kuperavage AJ. 2005. Questions about the Orrorin femur. Science 307:845. Full text

Ohman JC, Lovejoy CO, White TD. 2005. Questions about the Orrorin femur. Science 307:845. Full text

White TD. 2006. Early hominid femora: the inside story. Comptes Rendus Palevol (in press). Full text (subscription)