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In general, they were relatively small-bodied, with large chewing teeth but reduced (sometimes highly reduced) canine teeth.

They had small (ape-sized) braincases and rather protruding faces.

Found near Kenya’s Lake Turkana in a layer of rock dating to approximately 3.3 mya, during the middle of the Pliocene Epoch (5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago), the first tools—primitive hammers, anvils, and cutting tools—predate the emergence of .

The does not indicate with certainty if this species was at all terrestrial, although the fairly forward position of its foramen magnum (the hole through which the spinal cord exits the braincase) may suggest a habitually upright posture.

Some paleoanthropologists extend the span of this species far back into time to include many anatomically distinctive fossils that others prefer to allocate to several different extinct species.

In contrast, a majority of paleoanthropologists, wishing to bring the study of hominins into line with that of other mammals, prefer to assign to molecular clocks to calculate how long species had been separated from a common ancestor.

Fossils found since the early 1990s have begun to hint at just how complex the hominin bush was in the three million years or so following the time of , both known from South and East African sites.

This early radiation (diversification) of hominins, of which the latest survivors lived as recently as about 1.5 mya, made for a rather motley assortment.

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