or proof of interbreeding in bones. He used a checklist of diagnostic features to rate a group of modern and ancient skulls from Europe and Australia as well as archaic H. sapiens from Africa and nearby. He then ranked them all in order of decreasing similarity. In an out-of-Africa scenario, the modern specimens should most closely resemble the archaic sapiens. Instead, Wolpoff found regional similarities-particularly between a 14,000-year-old Australian H. sapiens known as WLH50 and Indonesian "Ngandong" H. erectus specimens. That is as it should be, according to his regional continuity theory. The alternative, he says, means you have to believe "that people came from Africa, replaced the natives around the world, but then came to look just like the natives. And that, to me, is not a probable explanation."
Many researchers remain unconvinced that skull shapes can never resolve this debate. Todd Disotell, a palaeoanthropologist turned molecular evolutionist at New York University, points to the stout frames of cold-adapted Inuit and Andean natives as evidence of how malleable the human skeleton can be, over relatively short periods of time, in response to environmental pressures. "You can tell a lot from fossils about how a population behaved, what kinds of food they ate, and so on," he says, but regional similarities between fossils may simply come from similar adaptations to local conditions. Disotell's genetic analysis reveals that looks can be very deceptive. "I've found monkeys that looked nearly identical that were completely unrelated. Then I found other monkeys that looked completely different, who were the most closely related pairs," he says. "You cannot use these morphological cranial features to infer relationship. The only proof is in the genes."
Here, at least, the out-of-Africa camp feels it is on solid ground. Since the landmark Mitochondrial Eve study was published in 1987, most researchers have been convinced that our remarkably homogPage: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Related biology news :1
Contact: Claire Bowles
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