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The Fossilized Remains of The Hominin
To answer this question, you need to imagine that you are an anthropologist who finds a fossilized skeleton — or, at least, a partial one — of a primate in Africa. You conclude that this primate was a hominin, and specifically it was some kind of australopithecine. You will write a short paper in which you discuss some aspects of your findings and conclusions. Read the directions below, and write your answer. Make sure to title each part as directed. Turn in your answer as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file. Double-space your answer.
THE INSTRUCTIONS ARE LONG BECAUSE THEY OFFER YOU A LOT OF GUIDANCE AND REMINDERS. READ THROUGH ALL INSTRUCTIONS, REMINDERS, TIPS, NOTES, ETC. SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY AS YOU GO. DO NOT LOSE POINTS UNNECESSARILY!
PART 1: Please title this part, “Region.”
State if you made your discovery in the eastern or the southern part of the African continent. You don’t need to be more specific than just “eastern Africa” or “southern Africa,” so your answer here is just two words. Which one you pick is totally up to you — but it will matter for the way you answer other parts, below. Don’t forget to make your other answers work with your choice here!
PART 2: Please title this part, “Hominin Morphology”
In a paragraph, identify and describe at least three features of the skeleton that led you to conclude that this primate should be classified as a hominin. Explain why these features lead you to this conclusion, and for each one, explain how the feature of the skeleton actually functioned.
Note: If you follow the above instructions, it means to you need to explain the relationship between the morphology (shape) of that part of the skeleton and how that part of the body functions (works) in hominins. Remember, among primates, hominins are defined by non-honing chewing and bipedalism, so do not discuss features unless they are directly relevant to those two things! You should be explaining how each feature is adapted for non-honing chewing or for walking on two legs.
Note: This section is just about classifying the fossil as generally belonging to a hominin. It is not about classifying it as any particular species. You’ll deal with that in the sections below.
PART 3: Please title this part, “Dates”
State the absolute age of the fossil and name the dating method that led you to this conclusion. In a few sentences, give an overview of how this dating method works.
Note: again, the date is up to you. But make sure it works for an australopithecine! Also, the date you choose will matter for the way you answer other parts, below.
Note: Remember, different methods of dating work on different materials and cover different ranges of dates. I’m looking to see that the method you choose works for the materials and dates in question. Make sure you know what materials and what date ranges a method applies to before you decide to say you used it!
Note: Remember when describing the dating method (as for all parts of your work) not to copy wording directly from your textbook, Canvas, or any other source!
PART 4: Please title this part, “Species”
State the species of australopithecine that you believe this fossil to belong to, and explain the evidence that led you to this conclusion. Include the general range of dates this species is known to have lived, the area in which it is known to have lived, and at least one particular aspect of morphology that differentiates this species of australopithecine from some other species of australopithecine.
Please make your australopithecine a member of one of the already known and classified species. Do not make it a new species or an unclassifiable oddity, and do not make any of your information contradict our previous knowledge about the species.
PART 5: Please title this part, “Our Ancestor?”
In a few sentence, assess whether this australopithecine species might be a direct ancestor of Homo, humans. Explain your thinking. What fits and/or doesn’t fit with this being a direct ancestor of Homo? Address at least the following:
does the time that this species lived allow it to be an ancestor of Homo — why or why not?
does the region in which this species is found make it more or less likely than other australopithecine species to be an ancestor of Homo — why?
Note: What matters here is where most of the early Homo fossils have been found — southern Africa or easter Africa? Don’t know? Go back to the course material and find out? Can’t figure it out? Ask for help!
does the particular morphology of this species suggest it is more or less likely than other australopithecine species to be an ancestor of Homo — why?
Pay special attention to whether the species is robust or gracile! Make sure to discuss this!
Remember, this is about comparing one species of australopithecine to another. A trait that is shared by all australopithecines — like being bipedal — doesn’t make one species of australopithecine any more likely than another to be an ancestor of Homo.
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