Friday, November 19, 2010

But seriously, what do finger bones have to do with sex?

A recent paper on fossil hominin hand morphology inspired journalists to write some of the wackiest headlines about human evolution in recent memory.

Here's a good one:

Neanderthals Were More Promiscuous Than Modern Huma
ns, Fossil Finger Bones Suggest.

What could you possibly take away from this headline besides,

"Seriously? Your finger bones indicate how sexually active you are or whether you're prone to cheat on your partner?"

While Googling for a way to evaluate your own fingers, or your partner's, you may also think,

"Stupid Neanderthals! That's not how you make babies! No wonder they went extinct."

Maybe Neanderthal baseball only had three bases?

Other headlines weren't so accidentally confusing... like this outrageous one in The Telegraph:

Neanderthals really were sex-obsessed thugs.

The subtitle reads: "Neanderthals really did act like Neanderthals, new research
suggests, as our early relatives were found to be more aggressive, competitive and promiscuous than modern man."

So what did the study actually find?

Lucky for you and me, the article is open access so anyone with internet access can see for themselves.

P.S. On a related note, here's a funny little question-and-answer about finger size and use.


occamseraser said...

sex fingers Neandertals rock n roll

who could ask for anything more?
[the nostril-finger Q&A is icing, tx]
well, maybe some better early hominin data ...
the findings are at odds with other data and inferences re: au afarensis 333(a chimeric hand) and ardipithecus (N=1).

news friendly if not exactly newsworthy -- precisely the type of stuff that the MT likes to call BS on.

On another front, the first blowback from Dikika cutmarks is now available at the P4P advertising site better known as PNAS. Sheparded through by Richard Klein no less.
Some very pointed rebuttals from the Dikika team already circulating the web.
cut marks?
croc bite marks?
trampling marks?
stay tuned.

James Goetz said...

I suppose that snot rockets helped to inspire the invention of the handkerchief.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Thank you two for appreciating my nose-picking link. I mean it. It's an honor.

I wish I could have blogged about the digit ratio article but the authors are pals and I didn't have 100% good thoughts about it. Hence, my "you can see for yourself" post.

Yeah, the PNAS paper on the early cut marks... they didn't look at the original bones, just photos. So there's a bit of an issue there.