Apes in Africa:
This is just a quick note.  A few years ago there was a scientific consensus that humans had evolved from apes in Africa.  Well, actually they usually said, “Ape-like animals.”  But since orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees are apes, and we are more like gorillas than they are like orangutans, I always put it down that we are apes, and that the line should be, “Humans evolved from other apes in Africa.”  I see no problem with that.  Just because we are apes would not mean we were just like other apes.  We are mammals, but we are not skunks … sometimes. 

Then I read a paper that said that the first apes themselves had evolved in Europe.  We in fact were thought to have been descended from a line of apes that had been found in the fossil record in the south of France.  So I had this vision of our ancestors dangling from branches in that lovely land munching away at chestnuts.  It seemed like a harmless enough fantasy.  Then, as the story went, apes moved out of Europe and wound up among other places in Africa, where they evolved into people.  There was another paper that suggested that early modern humans then migrated out east of Africa and evolved a bit further there before returning to Africa and thence spreading over the globe.  This latter suggestion has since vanished from the discussion and I suppose it has been discarded.

But as for the Apes-out-of-France, that has now been explicitly dismissed.  There is a new article (Apes among the Tangled Branches of Human Origins, Terry Harrison, SCENCE vol. 327 no. 5965 January 29, 2010 page 532) that gives the current best guess.  According to them, there was a line of apes or hominoids constituting a superfamily living in Africa.  From them descended the family hominids, from them the subfamily hominines, then the tribe hominins, from which the genus Homo or human, from which the species Homo sapiens, namely us, and then for the first time some of us left Africa.  The moral is clear; we can’t get away from naming everything after ourselves.

So if I ever said our ancestors dangled in France, I must now withdraw it.  Sorry.  I was only going with the beliefs of the time.  I should not be surprised to find the consensus changing again. 

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