BecomingHuman.org Announces Timeline

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March 26, 2009

BecomingHuman.org, launched in 2000 and upgraded earlier this year, alerts visitors to expect a timeline and associated material to appear within a few months.  The site is developing this new module, according to webmaster Jay Greene, to fill a clear need: teachers, students and others interested in human origins can see on one page all the species that make up the human evolutionary tree.

Becoming Human brings together interactive multimedia, research and scholarship to promote greater understanding of the course of human evolution

The new module, entitled Evolutionary Hominin Timeline, will comprise a graphic showing all the species commonly attributed to the sub family Homininae (bipedal members of the family Hominidae), data on where, when and by whom the key fossils were found; an essay relating to each taxon describing its evolutionary significance; images of searchers and team members, the sites where they were found, maps and other visual arterial; and links to further reading and podcasts.

The Timeline will be just that – showing the temporal relationship of each species to the others but not a phylogeny, which attempts to show evolutionary relationships.

The incontrovertibly bipedal species to be included are:

Kenyapithecus platyops
Australopithecus afarensis
Australopithecus garhi
Australopithecus africanus
Paranthropus robustus
Paranthropus aethiopicus
Paranthropus boisei
Homo habilis
Homo rudolphensis
Homo erectus
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo neanderthalensis
Homo floresiensis
Homo sapiens

(Note to students: a species is identified officially by is taxonomic binomial, a two word name in Latin comprising the genus, always capitalized, and the species, always lower case.  Binomials are always italicized, unless italics are unavailable, in which case underlining is substituted.  For example, the famous fossil skeleton nicknamed “Lucy”, discovered in 1974 by Donald Johanson, was given the the official name Australopithecus afarensis.  Australopithecus, its genus name, is Latin for “Southern Ape” and afarensis means “from Afar”, the region in Ethiopia where this significant fossil was found.  The binomial may be abbreviated, using one or two letters for the genus name, retaining full spelling of the species name, viz. A. afarensis.)

Four additional taxa will be included: Sehelenthropus tchadensis, dated at circa 6.5 million years ago(mya) and Orrorin tugenensis, dated at 5.9 mya.  Their inclusion in the Homininae has not been fully established.   Also Ardipithecus kadaba and Ardipithecus ramidus are included although the specimens are known only to the team that discovered them and have yet to be described.