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Whodunit: Who Or What Killed Off Our Ancestors?

April 14, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 146

Modern humans (Homo sapiens) evolved from other primates, most probably from chimpanzee stock in Africa when DNA relationships are analysed. We have a 98% compatibility with chimpanzee DNA. However, there was a long chain of in-betweens twixt chimpanzees and modern humans, the two key transitions being a bipedal gait (Australopithecus) and tool use (Homo). The interesting things are that while all the in-betweens have gone extinct, the ancestral primate stock didn't; the transition to modern humans was so fast that it reeks of artificial selection, not natural. Are the in-between extinctions and the extremely rapid transition to modern humans linked?

Review: 4.5 billion to 5 million years ago.

Divide the roughly 4.5 billion year history of Planet Earth into say five million year segments. Now imagine yourself 4.5 billion years ago jumping from one segment to the next. Even given a five million year leap, would you notice much change per leap? No, you wouldn't. You'd notice a little change, yes, but hardly anything drastic or major. That applies as you jump from segment to segment - a little change, a little more change, even a little more change as you get further and further removed from your starting point. The composition of the atmosphere slowly, ever so slowly changes; life begins and single celled critters emerge. After many, many segment leaps, these evolve simple multi-celled critters, etc. But change is so gradual that it's hardly perceptible from one segment to the next. The exception would be when there's been a mass extinction event, so if you jump from 70 million years ago to 65 million years ago, yes you'd notice that, oops, where are the dinosaurs? Then things settle back down again to very slow but very sure rate of change.

Now about 90 leaps of five million years each will bring you to roughly a time five million years ago. Observe carefully the landscape, atmospheric composition, and the various life forms. If you're in Africa you just might notice the early stirrings of the hominoid branch that will ultimately lead to us. Now do that final leap. Jump that final segment. Is the resulting change major or minor? If you answered yet again 'minor', put on your dunce cap. That change is the most major of all the incremental five million year leaps. Now doesn't that strike you as odd? It's always been a relatively slight incline of change, now all of the sudden the slope skyrockets.

Review: 5 million to 500,000 years ago.

Now divide that final five million year segment into say ten parts of 500,000 years each. Perform that same incremental jump. Not all that much changes from one 500,000 year block to the next one to the next one. But that last leap from 500,000 years ago to the present - well, there's that exponential slope again. There a huge change from that final 500,000 years ago to the present. At the start, there were no Homo sapiens. At the end, well just look around you - billions of Homo sapiens all around you.

Review: 500,000 to 50,000 years ago.

Divide that final 500,000 year block into ten segments of 50,000 years each. By the time you reach the last of those 50,000 year blocks, a lot of Homo species have come and gone, with only a couple left - Homo neanderthalensis and of course Homo sapiens, and in isolated Java, Homo floresiensis.

Review: 50,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Consider that final 50,000 year block. At the start, Homo sapiens exist, but there's no civilization to speak of. But we do have the first of two relative sudden advances. 50,000 years ago, give or take, modern humans 'invented' culture. Cave art and rock paintings appear; also carved figurines; humans began to bury the dead along with grave goods.

Now divide that final 50,000 block into five parts of 10,000 years each. At the end, with only 10,000 years left to go, we now have only one hominoid species left, Homo sapiens. In just that final 10,000 year period, you'll see the transition, in that relative short period of time, in diverse parts of the world; humans go from a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence to domestic settlements.

Review: 10,000 to 1000 years ago.

If you divide that final 10,000 year block into ten parts, then you go from civilization to a technological civilization.

Review: 1000 to 200 years ago.

Divide that final 1000 block into say five parts, and you go from a technological civilization to a high-tech civilization, and the progress is still undergoing an exponential expansion.

Okay, let's return back to roughly 5 million or so years ago, perhaps a shade more.

Somewhere around 8 to 6 million years ago, our lineage split off from the chimpanzee lineage. Our lineage is composed of lots of links, about 20 species known so far, some direct (like your grandparents and parents); some just branches off the main and aren't direct (like your cousins, aunts and uncles).

Here are the starting links in that chain that we know about.

Sahelanthropus tchadensis came on the African scene about 7 to 6 million years ago. We're not sure if this hominoid species was a parent or a cousin.

Orrorin tugenensis was slightly more recent, dating to roughly 5.8 million years ago. Again, parent or cousin isn't clear.

Ardipithecus ramidus and Ardipithecus kadabba were known to strut their stuff 5.8 to 4.3 million years ago and are credited with being in a direct linear chain to ourselves.

Here are the next links in the chain starting with the advent of the bipedal gait.

AUSTRALOPITHECUS (hominoids with an undoubted bipedal gait) had their origins from roughly that 4 to 3 million years ago era, give or take.

*Australopithecus anamersis existed down Africa way some 4.2 to 3.8 million years ago, an apparent ancestor to Australopithecus afarensis.

*Australopithecus afarensis is well known thanks to Lucy (of "in the sky with diamonds" fame). Australopithecus afarensis were around from roughly 3.6 to 3 million years ago though it seems there's a gap in the fossil evidence of some 200,000 years twixt Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus anamersis. When hominoid fossils are as few and far between as they are, such gaps aren't surprising.

*Australopithecus bahrelghazali has been documented from about 3.5 million years before the present.

*Kenyanthropus (or Australopithecus) platyops (depending on who you talk to) was a contemporary of Australopithecus bahrelghazali and Australopithecus afarensis dated again to 3.5 million years ago.

*Australopithecus africanus: If Australopithecus afarensis faded out of the picture some 3 million years ago, they were replaced by this mob, who reigned from about 3 million to 2.5 million years ago.

*Australopithecus garhi comes upon the scene just as Australopithecus africanus fades away in turn at about 2.5 million years before today.

Our Paranthropus cousins branch off around that 2.5 million year mark. First up was Paranthropus aethiopicus at 2.5 million years ago. Now there is some dispute about names.

*Australopithecus boisei or Paranthropus boisei? Whether parent or cousin, they were around from about 2.3 to 1.4 million years ago, and thus evolved before, and went kaput after, Australopithecus robustus or Paranthropus robustus.

*Australopithecus robustus or Paranthropus robustus? What's in a name anyway, The fact of the matter is that this African species is dated to 2 to 1.5 million years ago.

HOMO (tool makers) had their origin somewhere from 2.5 to 2 million years ago.

*Homo Rudolfensis (species akin to Homo habilis) inhabited Africa 2.5 to 1.9 million years ago.

*Homo habilis hit the scenes about 2.3 million years ago and lasted until roughly 1.6 million years ago.

*Homo ergaster: In one telling of the tale, Homo ergaster was post Homo habilis but pre Homo erectus and existed from about 2 million years ago to 1 million years ago. Other anthropologists assign the name Homo ergaster just to the African version of Homo erectus. That's because a hominoid species was about to flee the coup!

*Homo erectus was that species that flew the African coup. It was the first such ancestor of ours to migrate out of Africa (though not all did of course). They ended up in western, eastern, and South-Eastern Asia. Fossil remains have been found in Java for example. Homo erectus survived and thrived more as an Asian species than an African one, surviving until roughly 200,000 years ago in Asia after their 2 million years ago origins in Africa, and as Homo ergaster, died out 800,000 years before their Asian equivalents.

*Homo floresiensis (Java only) was an isolated offshoot of Homo erectus who has the distinction of being our most recent ancestor to go extinct. Homo erectus did so 200,000 years ago, but that isolated community hung on until a very short 12,000 years ago. That's nearly modern times!

*Homo heidelbergensis: Homo erectus also spawned another out-of-Africa species, Homo heidelbergensis who spread out over Europe from 700,000 to 300,000 years ago, presumably via migration from their ancestors in western Asia.

*Homo antecessor is the Homo erectus species who colonized Europe, sometimes known as another European version of Homo heidelbergensis. Homo antecessor lived in Europe from about 1 million years ago to roughly 300,000 years ago.

*Homo rhodesiensis is the same as Homo heidelbergensis, only the African version. So, presumably Homo ergaster gave rise to Homo rhodesiensis just as the out-of-Africa version of Homo erectus gave rise to Homo heidelbergensis. Like Homo antecessor, Homo rhodesiensis hung around for only 700,000 years - 1 million years ago to 300,000 years past.

*Homo neanderthalensis, being a west Asian and European species is the obvious descendant of those other European hominoids, Homo antecessor and Homo heidelbergensis. Of all our extinct ancestors (600,000 to 35,000 years ago), Neanderthals are the most famous, but we still don't the exact degree of interaction, even breeding (if possible) between them and the last and final species on the list - us.

*Homo sapiens (takes shape 400,000 to 200,000 years ago, but probably closer to 200,000 than 400,000, at least that's the consensus. Another consensus is that Homo sapiens were only the second African native to migrate out of Africa after Homo erectus, some 60,000 to 50,000 years ago.

There are probably still lots of undiscovered species that form additional links and branches in the chimp - modern human chain, but the above are enough to illustrate the point. A heck of a lot of our ancestors went extinct - cause or causes unknown.

Conveniently enough each species of Australopithecus and Homo lasted long enough to give rise to the next species of Australopithecus or Homo before going 'poof'. Now to paraphrase Ian Fleming's James Bond adversary Goldfinger, 'Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; three times [or more] is enemy action'. Now one or two, even three in-betweens - those in-between ancient chimpanzees stock (roughly 8 to 6 million years ago) and modern man - that went the way of the dodo might be explainable. That EVERY such in-between species went 'poof' is begging for a natural explanation, an explanation that I find lacking.

Over an up to eight million year period, from initial evolution to eventual extinction, all those parental links in our ancestral chain and kissing cousin branches has had that eventual going kaput scenario happen to them. As far as any one of them is concerned, that cradle to grave history was over a fairly short timeframe as geological eras go. I mean many species exist for millions of years; some for tens of millions; even some for hundreds of millions.

Lots of species, say of ants, tuna, frogs, snakes, bears, felines, monkeys, etc. coexist, share common territory, yet of all the hominoid species, Australopithecus and Homo, there remains now just one. Only one currently exists as that lone species, that of course being Homo sapiens - how very odd. Why should modern humans, and modern humans alone, having this long chain of in-betweens leading up to us, yet which no longer exist, be the 'last man standing' as it were?

If any and all links in the chimp - modern human chain evolved naturally (the standard model), then you'd expect those adaptations that evolved in the first place to last a spell. The African continent (action city and ground zero for the most part) and African environment wasn't fluctuating that drastically that no sooner had you evolved to fit in with that environment than it did a total flip-flop and rapidly somersaulted back and forth again and again causing endless extinctions (no species could survive for long under such circumstances) and new opportunities for our next generation of ancestors (soon to go extinct in turn). Alas, that doesn't wash since other animal species made it continuously through that up to eight million year period, in that same environment, without a care in the world, including, other primates, like the chimpanzees, while apparently a dozen or so of their naturally evolved descendent species were in constant strife! That's all the more puzzling because all of these links in the chain leading to Homo sapiens were "smarter than the average bear" and chimpanzee too. Even if Africa were a killing zone, how come the same scenarios played out in Asia and Europe too?

Clearly modern humans, responsible for what's been termed the most recent mass extinction event (of modern flora and fauna), didn't exterminate their ancestors since modern humans weren't around for most of that transition period. All Australopithecus and most Homo species went extinct before modern humans came on the scene. Did the next generation in the line of descent kill off the previous generation, in a manner akin to speculation that modern humans exterminated their kissing cousins, the Neanderthals?

Something's fishy. In fact physical anthropology texts just note that hominoid species W, X, Y & Z have gone extinct since they are clearly nowhere to be found alive on Earth today, but they can only speculate as to why - they don't know. They have not the foggiest clue why the Neanderthals don't walk the Earth today, so they just guesstimate possibilities.

Perhaps it's time to scrap the standard model for an alternative and highly un-standard scenario. Might there be a third party behind things? The key is that while modern humans are but one species, there are many breeds.

Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago, an extraterrestrial intelligence, by design (they detected Earth's bio-signatures like an oxygen atmosphere) or accident, discovered and arrived on Terra Firma, and for some reason(s) or other set up shop. Maybe it was for scientific purposes; maybe a good spot for R&R; maybe as an outpost or home away from home; maybe as a colony.

Now being a high-tech sort of culture (well they did get from there to here after all), and of a curious and scientific yet practical bent, thought it a grand long-term idea to get the native earthlings to serve them, in much the same way we get some animals to serve us - horses, camels or donkeys/mules for transport; seeing-eye dogs for the visually handicapped; guard dogs to, well guard things; canaries in the mines as an early warning system for toxic gases; cats to rid the farm of grain-eating mice; birds to eat the insects; and so on. Of course, in order to get animals to serve us, it not only helps to domesticate or quasi-domesticate them, but to artificially improve on their natural abilities or looks. And so guard dogs become larger and fiercer; horses for racing purposes are bread to become faster; and aesthetics aren't overlooked either so we breed animals to look this way or that way just because it pleases us to do so; etc. And so many a domesticated animal now comes in breeds; just like humans come in breeds - see the connection?

One trait we employ animals for is labour - oxen pull the plough, etc. Well, perhaps our extraterrestrials had the same thoughts way back then. But of course the basic stock with which they had to work with could always be improved, like humans breeding faster horses.

The most useful traits aliens would work on or with would be things like intelligence; dexterity; a free pair of appendages with which to manipulate objects; binocular vision; all useful things masters want in their slaves. You don't employ horses or dogs or cats or even monkeys to plant and harvest cotton - you 'employ' Negroes back in the golden pre Civil War days of the Deep American South. Ditto the British Navy - you shanghaied the great unwashed to serve as your basic lowest-of-the-low seamen.

Alas, way back then, the best of the best on offer were the primates. To get them up to the required standard demanded by the aliens required a bit of not natural, but artificial selection. Call it bio-engineering; genetic engineering, the goal was to engineer a life form of greater use to them.

So you start with the original best prime stock available (chimpanzees) and artificially breed and manipulate and select and alter them until you arrive at the modified next or second generation. The original stock, in this case the chimps have served their prime purpose and are of no further use, but since they were already in existence and well adapted to their surroundings and natural environment, their stock continued on, as it does to this day.

The next or second (now slightly modified) generation in turn is artificially manipulated to produce the third generation. Once the second generation has served its purpose its cast adrift and left to fend for themselves but they are NOT well adapted to their surroundings and natural environment, and their stock did NOT continue on but whether quickly or slowly but surely, went extinct.

The third generation gives rise to the fourth generation and thus the third generation go kaput as well, an artificial creation unadapted to the natural world. And so on and so on it goes until you hit the Nth generations - Homo erectus (good, but not great) and modern humans (ideal). Homo sapiens finally possessed nearly all the required attributes the extraterrestrials required, intelligence, opposable digits, bipedal gait that freed up those digits, etc. Even so, the aliens had to give modern humans a boost - the sudden arrival of human culture; the sudden transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer to settler and city dweller.

Clearly Homo erectus and Homo sapiens were the two success stories, but did they migrate out of Africa or were they transported out to selected sites by their creators, the aliens. If the former, you might expect a clear-cut fossil trail outlining and along the migration routes, especially as undirected nomadic wanderings only make progress in terms of steady distances covered over many generations. Alas, the fossil trail that should clearly delineate migration routes just isn't. The fossil sites are so few and far between that actual migration routes have to be inferred. Transport of Homo erectus and Homo sapiens to these sites would be just as compatible with the actual fossil evidence. The aliens, having achieved artificially selected/genetically engineered species that suited their needs would clearly transport them to where they could be put to good use.

One more clue to the reality of this scenario is the extremely wide and anomalous gap between modern humans and our now nearest chimpanzee ancestors when it comes to rather basic traits. In just eight million years: we're 'civilized'; they're not. We're bipedal; they're not; we're a 'naked ape'; they're a 'hairy ape' (as are the rest of the primates). We're very high up in IQ; they're not. We come in breeds (races); they don't. We have a sense of, as well as a culture; they don't. Those are gigantic differences, and all in eight million years, probably less. Eight million years is just 0.2 % of Earth's geological time - actually slightly less than that. Those are BIG differences compressed into a tiny timeframe.

In other supporting 'evidence' I offer up the fact that in mythologies around the world, the 'gods' (i.e. - aliens) created humans, including, obviously, Biblical mythology.

The 'gods' in nearly all mythologies ultimately give the gifts of civilization or those required for civilization in the accepted use of the term. This also helps to explain the relative sudden transition of many peoples and cultures from a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence to fixed settlements and agriculture. Nearly every culture has a deity of agriculture who gave that skill to that culture.

Mythologies around the globe speak of and illustrate all manner of hybrid creatures, both animal-animal (like the dragon or griffin) and animal-human (like the centaur or sphinx). Such creatures, if real, are either extraterrestrial, or genetically engineered from terrestrial species.

In modern times we have both the animal mutilation and the UFO abduction phenomena, both linked with ongoing alien genetic manipulation of all things terrestrial and maybe extraterrestrial too.

Now I know what some of you must be thinking - what about all those sightings of Bigfoot or Sasquatch, the Yeti and similar hairy hominoid bipeds of unknown origin? The answer for the here and now to that is when and if these reported beasties acquire the same sort of documentation as reality-based animals, like lions and elephants, then revision will be in order. Until then speculation remains just that, speculation.

Another objection would be if aliens needed domestic manual labour why not just construct and use robots! Ah, it's not just labour and getting others to do the work. When you think of, for example, the Biblical creation, what does God want? A prime goal of God and all those other gods is being worshiped, sort of like what we expect and take pleasure from in our pets' adoration or their 'worshiping' of us - even if it's only Fido the dog wagging his tail when you come home, or Fluffy the cat purring and rubbing against your leg. There's no gain or self-satisfaction in programming a machine to bow and scrape unto you.

In summary, that's my scenario as to who killed off the great ancestors of modern humans and why. It wasn't deliberate genocide on the part of the creators, just Mother Nature culling those species that weren't suited to their natural environment. Why they weren't suited is, again, because our ancestors were artificially created, so when cast adrift, well the rest as they say is history.

Science librarian; retired.

Source: EzineArticles
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