Lecturer says early man coexisted

Harriet Miranda

The Department of Biology at CSUN hosted one in a series of seminars on Friday at which it was suggested that humans, from their evolutionary beginning, had the capacity to coexist.

Alan Shabel, a Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley, lectured on the “Paleoecology of Plio-Pleistocene Hominins ‘ The Long-Term Coexistence of Homo and Paranthropus.”

It was a seminar on the gathering of fossils and trace fossils that help reconstruct the ecosystems of pre-humans in Africa to show how two of these human ancestors, the Homo and Paranthropus, coexisted in the region.

Shabel presented different theories scientists have developed to explain how the two similar homonins could coexist even though they were potential competitors that could have eliminated one another.

“None of them fit the evidence completely,” said Shabel about the hypotheses he presented.

Shabel talked about each homonin having a distinct ecological niche, such as dietary differences. The main difference between the Homo and what Shabel referred to as Australopithecines was that they had very different jaw structures and features.

The Homo’s teeth were significantly smaller than those of the Australopithecine, which were referred to as “robust.” This indicated that the Homos were probably omnivorous, while the Australopithecines were vegetarian, eating more nuts and hard fruits. The theory was supported by pictures of actual teeth from both species and the examination of the damage and imprints on the surface of each set of teeth that would hint at the types of food each hominin ate.

The theory would suggest the reason why they didn’t compete was that one was omnivorous and ate both meats and vegetation, while the other was just vegetarian.

Furthermore, the lecture focused on the evolution of other animals that lived in the region and how their dietary divergences affected later-evolved species.

The majority of the seminar was delivered in full scientific jargon, which would prove difficult to understand for some audience members, though that didn’t seem to be the case during the question and answer session that closed the seminar.

“Most of the students here are from two classes,” said 25-year-old Joshua Shipp, a graduate biology major.

“One is an undergrad class and for graduate students they have to take one semester of the colloquium class.”

The seminars are put together by Fritz Hertel and Maria Elena Zavala and are sponsored by the Department of Biology, Minority Biomedical Research Support and the

Minority Access to Research Careers Program.

Topics included molecular biology, genetics and environmental topics as well.

“A lot of the research is fairly new,” said Iunona Croiter, 23-year-old biology major, referring to the topics discussed at the weekly seminars.

The seminars in question take place every Friday at 2 p.m. in Eucalyptus Hall, Room 2132, and are open for all CSUN students to attend.