We’ve Done the Paternity Tests

We’ve done the paternity tests, we’ve traced back the genealogy, we’re doing all kinds of in-depth testing of the human species. We are apes and the descendants of apes, who were the descendants of rat-like primates, who were children of reptiles, who were the spawn of amphibians, who were the terrestrial progeny of fish, who came from worms, who were assembled from single-celled microorganisms, who were the products of chemistry. Your daddy was a film of chemical slime on a Hadean rock, and he didn’t care about you—he was only obeying the laws of thermodynamics.  P.Z. Myers

Am I bothered by this; do I find my distant past and parentage embarrassing, or does this somehow diminish my humanism?  Hell no…I think it’s kind of cool.  It makes absolutely no difference in my life, it doesn’t hold me back in anyway, and I don’t feel some kind of loss because some mythical man-made sky god didn’t create us out of dirt.  Silly story anyway.
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The Missing Links

Some of our missing links and when they lived.
Note that some or all of these times and general information may change as new data emerges or new finds are made.  Sorry, that’s the way science is.

Ardipithicus ramidus
The Ardipithecus specimen, an adult female, stood four feet tall and weighed about 120 pounds, almost a foot taller and twice the weight of Lucy. Its brain was no larger than a modern chimp’s. It retained agility for tree-climbing but already walked upright on two legs, a transforming innovation in hominids, though not as efficiently as Lucy’s kin.  4.4mya to ??

Australopithecus afarensis
The most famous member of the species is Lucy, an adult female skeleton discovered in 1974 and nicknamed after a Beatles song. Lucy lived about 3.18 million years ago and was fully capable of walking and running on two legs.

Australopithecus africanus
A. africanus was an early descendent of Lucy and lived in Southern Africa between 2 million and 3 million years ago. Its brain was larger than Lucy’s and its facial features were more human-like.  Recent finds are probably going to push this timeline further back in time.

Paranthropus aethiopicus
This early ape-like hominid walked on two legs and lived between 2.8 million and 2.2 million years ago. Based on skull measurements, scientists concluded this species had the smallest adult hominid brain ever discovered.

Paranthropus bosei
It is believed that P. Bosei split from the line leading to modern human some 2 million years ago and lived alongside our ancestors for hundreds of thousands of years, but died out after failing to adapt their diets.

Homo habilis
Many scientists believe H. habilis is the missing link between the ape-like hominids like Lucy and the more human-like ones that came after. They had long ape-like arms, but walked on two feet and were capable of creating tools.  2.2 mya to 1.6 mya

Homo ergaster
Scientists can’t decide whether this African hominid is just a failed predecessor of H. erectus or the rightful ancestor of modern humans. It had a thinner skull than H. erectus and was more proficient at making tools and using fire.  2 mya to 1.5 mya

Homo erectus
H. erectus is generally believed to be the direct ancestor of modern humans and also the first hominid to live in caves and tame fire.  2 mya to 400,000 years ago.

Cro-Magnon/Homo sapiens
These people were modern humans and lived in Europe from about 65 to 50,000 BC to present. They are found in Africa from about 200,000 years ago to present. Found in Australia from about 50,000 years ago to present.  Their cave paintings, petroglyphs, and sculptures are the earliest known examples of art by a prehistoric people.

Stocky, muscular, squat and well suited for the cold, Neanderthals looked distinctly different from modern humans. But they were like us in other ways: they buried their dead, cared for their sick and injured and were probably capable of language and music. Bones of Neanderthal have been found in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Scientists not long ago put together a complete Neanderthal skeleton, and have just this year (2009), completed their genome. They have a 99.5% gene match to us humans.  250,000 years ago to about 30,000 years ago.

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