Hominid Diversity and ‘Ancestor’ Myths

Homo, H. sapiens, and Other Taxa from a Phylocladistic Viewpoint
  • Niels Bonde
Part of the Biosemiotics book series (BSEM, volume 6)


Many of the ‘myths’ of direct ancestors of ‘all hominids’ or of Homo or of H. sapiens and age of these ‘ancestors’ are shown to be ‘false’ or based on poor character analyses and/or suboptimal classifications and/or inconsequent choices of names of taxa. Ernst Mayr’s devastating influence since 1950 on naming fossil hominids and therefore on comprehending their diversity is obvious. Recently, that is since mid 1990s, many more new taxa of fossil hominids have been found and named, and this has produced a much better appreciation of the prehistoric diversity, and has questioned and put into doubt, if not outright refuted, many of the traditional, often too simplified and adaptationistic scenarios (or ‘just-so stories’) about human evolution as evidenced by ‘direct fossil ancestors’. The most famous of these, ‘Lucy’, is here named Afaranthropus (n. gen.) antiquus (Ferguson, 1984).


Sister Group Modern Human Crown Group African Language Last Common Ancestor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Thanks to the organisers for two very pleasant and in formative meetings in Copenhagen, and to the editors and publisher for their patience. Thanks also to the late Bjarne Westergaard, with whom I used to discuss lots of these problems with primate and hominid evolution and classifications, and cladistic methods and philosophy in general, he was a rich source of information – and thanks to his family who after his incomprehensible and unreasonable death in 2008 transferred his huge primate library to me and to the Natural History Museum (SNM). Further thanks to drs. Chris Stringer and Peter Andrews, Museum of Natural History, London, for discussions on hominids and phylogenetic systematics, and to Drs Ian Tattersal and Eric Delson with whom I enjoyed studying the many original fossil hominids from all over the world at the famous ‘Ancestors’ meeting in American Museum of Natural History in New York almost 30 year ago. I am grateful to my institute for workspace and fascilities as well as for support some years ago to journeys to symposia, where some of these ideas on hominids and cladistic classifications were presented e.g. in Oxford 2003.

Supplementary material

271958_1_En_9_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.3 mb)
Caption of the data object (PDF: 1.30 MB).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geography & GeologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Fur MuseumFurDenmark

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