Such expressions as that famous one of Linnæus, and which we often meet with in a more or less concealed form, that the characters do not make the genus, but that the genus gives the characters, seem to imply that something more is included in our classification, than mere resemblance. I believe that something more is included; and that propinquity of descent,—the only known cause of the similarity of organic beings,—is the bond, hidden as it is by various degrees of modification, which is partially revealed to us by our classifications (Darwin, 1859, p. 413f).

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Aquatic Ape

More fossil news:

Fossil hunters arrive in Darwin country, but will they find a pub?

The story ends with this snippet:

In the corridors and coffee areas, some students were angling for jobs – the recession hits fossil hunting too – while others were hijacking experts to help them with their work. Such as Bristol student, Brian Machin, whose thesis is on the theory that a type of monkey found in South America got there by floating from Africa on a raft. "It's nonsense of course," he said, "But it's hard to prove it's nonsense."

Who is Brian Machin? We need to know.


Wills Flowers said...

Not that hard to prove... See Stankiewicz et al. 2006 for a discussion of the hydrodynamics required for rafting between Africa and Madagascar.

J. Stankiewicz, C. Thiart1, J. C. Masters and M. J. de Wit (2006)Did lemurs have sweepstake tickets? An
exploration of Simpson’s model for the
colonization of Madagascar by mammals. Journal of Biogeography. 33, 221–235

"the Dude" said...

Yes, rafting (both monkeys and cavoids??) across the wide Atlantic is likely incorrect. The New world monkey & cavy stock had been isolated at (then-warm) coastal Antarctica & Patagonia since Africa split away; expanding northward in Oligocene and early Miocene along Argentina/Chile (fossil teeth), when Antarctica/South America finally split, starting the circumpolar current and massive glaciation 34ma producing the major updraft which pulled Africa, South America and India-Australia northwards.
The terrestrial mammal-bearing sequence conformably overlies a marine section of Late Oligocene to Early Miocene age. The combined marine–terrestrial sequence, as well as a locality with fossil whales and bracketing basalts, bear significantly on theories regarding the extent of the late Tertiary Patagonian epicontinental seaway and the onset of later Cenozoic phases of uplift in the southern Andes.