• “What’s in a Name?” The Taxonomy & Phylogeny of Early Homo

      Galway-Witham, Julia (Ubiquity Press, 2016-01-05)
      Hominin systematics, encompassing both taxonomy and phylogeny (Strait, 2013), has significant implications for how the evolution of species and traits are understood and communicated. Following a recent influx of fossils (e.g., Brown et al., 2004; Lordkipanidze et al., 2013; Villmoare et al., 2015a; Berger et al., 2015) the amount of diversity in fossil morphology has increased correspondingly. As researchers do not yet approach diversity in a uniform manner, the literature has been flooded with conflicting theories and methodologies (Strait, 2013). Particularly volatile has been the study of the origin of the genus Homo and the extent of variation therein: much controversy arises from conflicting views of the number of valid species subsumed within ‘early Homo’ given unspecified definitions of species and genera. Additionally, there is still a lack of understanding of the extent of and mechanism behind variation, especially within Hominina. The first section of the following paper addresses ‘how can species be identified?’ and ‘how should species be classified into higher taxa?’ The second section reviews the prevalent arguments used to systematise fossils frequently classified as ‘early Homo.’ It considers: the validity of Homo rudolfensis; the morphological, spatial & temporal overlap of earlier Homo with Homo ergaster; the systematic significance of the recently discovered LD 350-1; and finally, the appropriateness of ‘early Homo’ as an adaptive grade.