Saturday 6 April 2013

Right Under Our Noses! Miocene Canine Reduction?

I begin with an homage to Andrew Marvell, who wrote perhaps the best carpe diem poem that exists in the English language. I trust you'll bear with Andrew for a few minutes, and I'll be back with an explanation when he's finished. Before you start, however, I'll give you a piece of advice that I learned years ago when studying English literature for a B.A. When reading this poem, don't be 'line-bound.' In other words, read as if you were reading prose, and follow the punctuation, without stopping at the end of every line. It really helps with comprehension if you don't chop it up into separate lines.

To His Coy Mistress
(ca. 1650 C.E.)

Had we but world enough, and time,

This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way

To walk and pass our long love's day.

Thou by the Indian Ganges' side

Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would

Love you ten years before the Flood,

And you should, if you please, refuse

Till the conversion of the Jews.

My vegetable love should grow

Vaster than empires, and more slow;

An hundred years should go to praise

Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;

Two hundred to adore each breast,

But thirty thousand to the rest;

An age at least to every part,

And the last age should show your heart.

For, Lady, you deserve this state,

Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear

Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

Thy beauty shall no more be found,

Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound

My echoing song: then worms shall try

That long preserved virginity,

And your quaint honour turn to dust,

And into ashes all my lust:

The grave's a fine and private place,

But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue

Sits on thy skin like morning dew,

And while thy willing soul transpires

At every pore with instant fires,

Now let us sport us while we may,

And now, like amorous birds of prey,

Rather at once our time devour

Than languish in his slow-chapt power.

Let us roll all our strength and all

Our sweetness up into one ball,

And tear our pleasures with rough strife

Thorough the iron gates of life:

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.

~Andrew Marvell (1621–1678)

Didja ever have a revolutionary idea that you just couldn't let go of, but never got it published? I have at least a dozen. And I'm at my wit's end trying to 'seize the day.' In the poem Marvell says [and I'm paraphrasing] 'let's work together and go for it.' That is why I put up the poem today. I want to ask you for help in birthing what is a revolutionary idea that's been pounding on the door of my head, trying to get out, for nearly 30 years [believe it].

Today, I'm appealing to you for help in getting my idea into the public domain. It's a fully fledged argument, but one that lacks a solid metrical component to anchor the whole thing. That's the reason that I couldn't get it published as it stands. I confess that I just don't have the energy to go looking for all the data, nor do I have the wherewithal to make the rounds of the world's laboratories to collect the information directly. So, I'm turning to you.

When I began working toward my goal of being a Ph.D. I was interested only in the fossils, and not, surprisingly enough, their archaeological context. I was a hybrid almost throughout my B.A. and Ph.D. in that I straddled the boundary between physical anthropology and archaeology. So, my coming to you with a thesis having to do with an obscuroid fossil hominoid, I could understand why you might be sceptical of my expertise. Whatever your feeling is as to whether or not I should be allowed to write about fossils, please put aside any reluctance and press on. I'm sincere in my search for a collaborator.

In brief, my thesis is as follows. In 1962 Louis Leakey discovered a new higher primate, which he named Kenyapithecus wickeri, and which he said might be a stem species for the bipedal apes. His sole reason for saying so was a miniscule upper canine found "in association" and which he assigned to the same individual. The canine is much smaller than those of other contemporary apes, and thus Leakey presumed that the hallmark of humanity---reduced canines---had its origin at least 14 myr ago. Now, if you've been visiting this blog for a while, you'll know that association is notoriously fickle. I believe that the upper canine never belonged to the Kenyapithecus type specimen, and was instead the tooth of Proconsul heseloni [the hominoid formerly known as P. africanus]. Now, back to you and my desire to seize the day.

I want to know if you or anyone you know could lay their hands on an up-to-date corpus of published [or unpublished]  measurements and photo documents of the maxillary canine of Miocene hominoids---the lot of them.

I'm leaving a link here that'll take you to a pdf of my paper [it's on Google Drive]. Literally all the paper needs is those data, which would allow corroborating comparisons within and between species of a similar age and clade.

I know that I'm taking a risk by putting up an unpublished ms. I trust that no one will abscond with the ideas. Of course, if they did they might have better luck and the idea might get its day in the sun. Please understand that I'd be more than willing to share authorship.

Thank you for your kind attention.


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