Quote: The importance of skeletons

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For a research paper, I was re-reading some parts of the edited volume that describes the “Kadanuumuu” skeleton from Woranso-Mille, KSD-VP-1/1. This quote from a chapter by Owen Lovejoy and coworkers is worth sharing:

Articulated fossil specimens are now known to be the key elements that preserve sufficient information with which to solve major human evolutionary issues that cannot be resolved using only the typical single, isolated anatomical site (e.g., femur or humerus).

Paleoanthropology has a rich fossil record, but that record samples some ancient populations and species much more than others, and many ancient populations remain to be discovered.

It has become abundantly clear during the last fifteen years that single anatomical features mislead us about the overall pattern of human evolution. Mosaic evolution is the norm in human origins. That’s not a surprising finding; the idea of mosaic evolution can be found in publications about hominins ever since Wilfred Le Gros Clark discussed the idea in 1958. But for some reason many anthropologists have not taken this lesson on board.


Lovejoy, C. O., Latimer, B. M., Spurlock, L., & Haile-Selassie, Y. (2016). The pelvic girdle and limb bones of KSD-VP-1/1. In The Postcranial Anatomy of Australopithecus afarensis (pp. 155-178). Springer, Dordrecht.