Thursday, June 04, 2009

How a Headline Can Get Away From You

IO9 has a story on the 12 mya primate find from Spain with the unfortunate headline:
"12 Million Year Old Hominid With Human Features Discovered In Spain."

No it doesn't. The features aren't remotely human. They are ape-like; and Miocene ape-like, at that! The rest of the article is fairly stock, with the exception of this set of paragraphs:
It's the specimen's facial morphology that has really attracted interest. While most of the primates in the Hominidae family are prognathic, or marked by a protruding jaw, Anoiapithecus brevirostris has a remarkably flat face. Its facial features are comparable only to the Homo genus, of which we're the only living representative and which didn't even exist for nearly ten million years after Anoiapithecus brevirostris.

That's not to say Lluc is some sort of time-displaced missing link between modern humans and ancient apes. Instead, the researchers speculate this may be an example of evolutionary convergence, where similar environmental conditions produce similar adaptations. If nothing else, this discovery may help researchers better understand the occurrence of reduced prognathism in certain strands of the Hominidae family.

Well, YAH! That's probably what's going on.We simply don't have enough information to develop any well-established hypotheses about what this thing represents, yet. Give it time. But, for crying out loud, don't go around calling it an ape with "human features." That's just irresponsible. I can't wait for the YEC groups to weigh in on this one.

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