EARTH Magazine: Redefining Homo - Does Our Family Tree Need More Branches?

EARTH Magazine

From EARTH Magazine, August 23, 2016  --  Human evolution and paleoanthropology are tricky subjects, not just because of the rarity of these fossils, but also because human nature seems to be getting in the way of modern taxonomy. In a field that is generally governed by logical rules when it comes to identifying new fossils, scientists are noticed there are some peculiarities applied to our own genus, Homo. 

The story of the genus Homo is as much rooted in historical cultural norms as it is in the modern scientific sector. The institution of the 1700s Linnaean classification system left the definition of Homo as the highly philosophical "to know thyself," and even today scientists must face the challenges of human exceptionalism and now-defunct evolutionary theories trickling into their studies. Added complexity comes from the fact that there are still so many questions about where the demarcation of different species is is often highly debated as well. 

Is it brain size; limb, hand and foot proportions; the ability to communicate or use tools? How do the added complexities of new Homo species found in Asia further rewrite the history of the genus and other hominins? In the September issue, EARTH Magazine delves into the challenges that have arisen as scientists still ask, "What makes a human, human?" Read at: http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/redefining-homo-does-our-family-tre....

The September 2016 electronic issue of EARTH Magazine is ready for download at www.earthmagazine.org. In addition to stories like "Redefining Homo," we bring you the science behind the headlines and share recent developments from the geoscience community like how glaciologists are employing cost-efficient tools like drones and automated kayaks to get as close as they can to the action on the glacier, how firefighters are benefitting from earthquake sensor networks, and the important role ocean bacteria could play in Earth's climate system.