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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

DALE DRINNON: Musings on Species

I have a couple of things to air out and Wikipedia is the quickest source once again.

There is discussion about the practical definition of species under the headings for "Species"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species
and especially the subsection, "Definition of Species", and then on the redirect section on "Species Problem"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species_problem

For the most part I am one of the adherants of the point of view that the definition of species should be measured by a fixed unit of genetic distance, as much as possible. My working definition is that a million years' worth of evolutionary divergence equals a clear distinction between species. Most workers are vague about the distinction between species and subspecies: I personally regard subspecies as an arbitrary unit, which is useful to field ecologists but not of any value as a taxonomic grade. That part is not important in this discussion.

The Wikipedia article has a chart of species, which are estimated to be still awaiting discovery. That chart is attached in this article and the discovery of new animal species is exactly what cryptozoology is all about. Something like 61,000 species of vertebrates are awaiting discovery by the chart, which would include quite a few large land and sea mammals, on the usual flat cross-section percentage. The number of mammal species alone could number in the tens of thousands, and the number of LARGE mammal species yet to be discovered in the thousands, and still be only a very small cut out of that estimated figure.

Now my own expertise is in physical anthropology and to be precise, the measurement and comparison of fossil hominin skulls. I have several times made the statement that even if most wildmen reported are relic hominids, they could still be members of the same species as us. Here is a section out of the Wikipedia article on Homo heidelburgensis:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_heidelbergensis
Divergent evolution

Most experts now agree that H. heidelbergensis is the direct ancestor of H. sapiens (with some uncertainty about such specimens as H. antecessor, now largely considered H. heidelbergensis) and H. neanderthalensis. Because of the radiation of H. heidelbergensis out of Africa and into Europe, the two populations were mostly isolated during the Wolstonian Stage and Ipswichian Stage, the last of the prolonged Quaternary glacial periods. Neanderthals diverged from H. heidelbergensis probably some 300,000 years ago in Europe, during the Wolstonian Stage; H. sapiens probably diverged between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago in Africa. Such fossils as the Atapuerca skull and the Kabwe skull bear witness to the two branches of the H. heidelbergensis tree.

Homo neanderthalensis retained most of the features of H. heidelbergensis after its divergent evolution. Though shorter, Neanderthals were more robust, had large brow-ridges, a slightly protruding face and lack of prominent chin. They also had a larger brain than all other hominins. Homo sapiens, on the other hand, has the smallest brows of any known hominin, was tall and lanky, and had a flat face with a protruding chin. H. sapiens has a larger brain than H. heidelbergensis, and a smaller brain than H. neanderthalensis, on average. To date, H. sapiens is the only known hominin with a high forehead, flat face, and thin, flat brows.

[And to this we can add, the only hominin KNOWN to have lost the hirsute coat of body hair-DD]

Some believe that H. heidelbergensis is a distinct species, and some that it is a cladistic ancestor to other Homo forms sometimes improperly linked to [called a] distinct species in terms of populational genetics.

Some scenarios of survival include
H heidelbergensis > H. neanderthalensis
H. heidelbergensis > H. rhodesiensis > H. sapiens idaltu > H sapiens sapiens

Those supporting a multiregional origin of modern humans envision fertile reproduction between many evolutionary stages and homo[lateral] walking, or gene transfer between adjacent populations due to gene passage and spreading in successive generations.

--This I would call a fair statement all around with the glaringly obvious (to me) amendment that the time of divergence between H. sapiens and H. neandethalensis from the common ancestral stock (H. heidelbergensis including H. antecessor) is not long enough to create distinct species. It is a fair statement to say that the anatomy does display speciation in process, but all would be the same species and that species' name would be Homo sapiens by priority. 200,000 to 300,000 years' worth of genetic distance is nowhere near enough to consider any two other animal species as sufficiently divergent to qualify for separate species status.

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

This message encountered transmission difficulties when I sent it to Jon. I sent a second message for clarification but there is still one statement which should be changed. The line in this version says "The number of large mammal species alone could be in the tens of thousands" and it should have read "the number of mammal species alone could number in the tens of thousands, and the number of LARGE mammal species yet to be discovered in the thousands"

And I know even after that adjustment, the statement is liable to draw fire. Those are not MY figures, I am merely drawing attention to the figures that were posted.