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40 Million Year Old Primate Fossils Found In Asia

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the look-who's-coming-to-dinner dept.

Earth 91

sosaited writes "It has been widely believed that our ancestors originated out of Africa, but a paper published in Nature by Carnegie Museum of Natural History scientists puts this in doubt. The paper is based on the fossils of four primate species found in Asia which are 40 million years old, during which period Africa was thought to not have these species. The diversity and timing of the new anthropoids raises two scenarios. Anthropoids might simply have emerged in Africa much earlier than thought, and gone undiscovered by modern paleontologists. Or they could have crossed over from Asia, where evidence suggests that anthropoids lived 55 million years ago, flourishing and diversifying in the wide-open ecological niches of an anthropoid-free Africa."

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91 comments

Atlantis (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34047200)

They were Atlanteans/aliens from outerspace.

Re:Atlantis (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34047226)

Just some of McCain's childhood buddies.

Could they really cross continents? (1)

grounded_roamer (794712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047216)

Wasn't Asia detached from Africa 40M years ago?

Re:Could they really cross continents? (3, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047238)

Looking at this map [usgs.gov] it seems that they may have been in contact.

Re:Could they really cross continents? (4, Informative)

nephridium (928664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047556)

http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~rcb7/35moll.jpg [nau.edu] (taken from http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~rcb7/mollglobe.html [nau.edu] ) is probably the more accurate map of the period. Interestingly there seems to be a lot of (shallow?) water separating Africa and Asia.

According to these maps the land-bridge only developed later, when the Arabian peninsula emerged and connected both continents.

Re:Could they really cross continents? (2, Insightful)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051992)

Very nice map link. And do you know what is also very evident? That the ice capped poles are VERY recent and NOT the normal climate of our world. So everyone please STOP complaining about the ice cap melt, they are not supposed to be there in the first place. Climate change is normal, but what we really need to be concerned about is the effect of our pollution and deforestation on the planet. Fix man's destructive effects and the climate will change as it is intended.

Re:Could they really cross continents? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054116)

Everyone repeat after me: "i will not fall for false cognitive closure [absolute-truths.com] ."

There have been many ice ages, including one (before that graph starts) in which the entire planet was covered in ice for hundreds of millions of years.

"Global warming" is recognition that we are not in a natural rising cycle, but have pushed temperatures up artificially. The evidence is broad and deep, and people who say it's wrong are, to a man, either ignorant or self-serving.

Re:Could they really cross continents? (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 3 years ago | (#34056512)

I'm not saying we are not having an adverse effect on climate - we are. However, I do believe even without the effects of man we would still be coming out of the last ice age and the polar caps would melt. My point was that we need to worry less about climate change (as this happens naturally) and more about how we are polluting the planet.

Re:Could they really cross continents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34079344)

The evidence is broad and deep

Really? Please let the scientific community know whether clouds are a positive or negative feedback then. Without that piece of knowledge we have no idea whether our climate models reflect reality or not.

Re:Could they really cross continents? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057048)

What normal? there are cycles. They come and go. and now there aren't supposed to be going..but they are.

Re:Could they really cross continents? (1)

dloose (900754) | more than 2 years ago | (#34061186)

Very nice map link. And do you know what is also very evident? That the ice capped poles are VERY recent and NOT the normal climate of our world. So everyone please STOP complaining about the ice cap melt, they are not supposed to be there in the first place.

You might want to check your phrasing. Saying that the polar ice caps are "not supposed to be there" is nonsensical. How did they get there? Did god spilled a glass of ice water? I think the point you're trying to make is: There was a time when the polar ice caps didn't exists, and primates still managed to survive (evidently). Sorry to nitpick.

Climate change is normal, but what we really need to be concerned about is the effect of our pollution and deforestation on the planet. Fix man's destructive effects and the climate will change as it is intended.

The effect of pollution and deforestation on the planet is an acceleration of natural climate change, which is leading to the melting of the polar ice caps! So yes, you're correct: We need to seriously curtail pollution and deforestation to reduce the anthropogenic portion of climate change. But the melting polar ice caps are a big deal.

we weren't the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34047268)

most likely several prior civilizations have risen from evolution on this planet, only to be washed away by time and nature - we're simply the current, latest incarnation of life here.

Re:we weren't the first (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047292)

Prior civilisations would have left artefacts in space. Geosynchronous orbit is both attractive and stable, but it was empty when we got here. Then there is all the fossil fuel we are burning. Why would an earlier civilisation leave it for us?

Re:we weren't the first (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047318)

There are plenty examples of other more "primitive" civilizations leaving things alone because they know they cause more harm than good.

(Los Angeles, for instance. Native Americans knew that it wasn't practical to inhabit it, because smoke would stay there. Not a natural resource, but still...)

Re:we weren't the first (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047360)

But other humans came along and lived there. If as the AC claims other species had civilisations like ours on Earth it is reasonable to assume they visited both LA and Tranquillity Base.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047748)

lol. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. You honestly believe that?

Re:we weren't the first (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34048776)

Huh, guess you should go find some Tongva and tell them they didn't exist and weren't forced off their land in the Los Angeles area. Oh, and be sure to mention that their ancient burial grounds desecrated by developers didn't exist either, and they're totally full of shit. Either that or you are, I wonder which it is?

You're an ignorant dumbass.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047434)

We are a civilisation only for 50 - 150 years?

Re:we weren't the first (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047468)

Can you clarify?

Re:we weren't the first (0)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047530)

We leave such artifacts (lack of which you treat as conclusive evidence against existence of prior civilisations) only for around a century; just few lifespans. That's a very short time compared to the timescale of our civilisation (nvm how it assumes our current industrial level is somehow inevitable, while we still have hunter-gatherers among homo sapiens)

Re:we weren't the first (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047534)

Oh okay but lets assume our civilisation lasts a million years. We are going to be scattering material through the solar system for a lot of that time.

Re:we weren't the first (0)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047624)

And why would that be a valid assumption here, especially in the case of some prior civilisations which demonstrably perished?

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051540)

Humans have been leaving artifacts of technology for over 30,000 years. Advanced technology and urban centers for roughly 8-10,000 years.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052004)

The argument was about lack of "their" geostationary satellites and existence of oil reserves...

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052122)

OK, lets say there was a civilization here*, oh 10 MYA.

They could have very well gotten their oil from locations that have since uplifted and had the oil deposits fractured and destroyed, not tapping or discovering or playing out the deposits we've worked.

The Rift Valley, Anatolia, Brooks Range, Rocky Mountains of Wyoming and Colorado all come to mind from Petrology class of places that used to have a lot of oil, but mountain uplift destroyed most of it.

Or hell, maybe they settled mostly in Antarctica 30 MYA

As for geosync satellites, those would have spun off or come back down within a million years.

* - I don't believe there was

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052164)

That wasn't my argument...

Tell that all to the guy who said "because we have oil, there was no such civilisation" (which, as both you and I point out, is fundamentally flawed; even if we point out different reasons), or general "lack of space artifacts" (supposedly thinking also about the Moon...)

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047794)

Geosynchronous orbit might be stable over the course of hundreds or even thousands of years, but millions or tens of millions? No. Even the moon is moving away from the earth. Anything further out would have long vanished into the shadows. As for fossil fuels, who says a civilisation needs to go through that stage at all? From wood burning steam to vegetable oil powered diesel is a natural step, even using ethanol, after that electric would be inevitable, assuming they wouldn't have just focused on that from the outset. Over geological time periods, even our mighty civilisation would leave basically nothing behind. There is absolutely no reason why a previous intelligent life form might not have existed and vanished at a high level of technological capability on earth.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34048146)

There are good reasons to assume no civilisations prior to ours. But yeah, lack of technological artifacts isn't one of them, and not only because most (not all) of them would rapidly decay ("vanished at a high level of technological capability on earth" goes too far - why would they even have high level of technological capability? We didn't have it for many millennia). Lack of fossil record (before our recent primate ancestors came along) suggesting trends toward intelligence comparable to ours - much better.

Detecting our artifacts in a few mil. years (1)

skywatcher2501 (1608209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34048228)

What would you say are the chances of detecting human artifacts in a few million years? I could imagine some signs of technological advancement last quite a bit (architecture, car/airplane relics, railroads, ...). Although I can't really quantify that. Perhaps someone else can?

Re:Detecting our artifacts in a few mil. years (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34048448)

The point isn't about how we would miss all of them, but how some go too far when assuming any "suitable" artifacts would be even created in the first place.

A variant of Fermi paradox, essentially. From what we can guess now, life is probably quite common in the Universe. Complex multicellular life - most likely much less common (of which even our planet is a nice example: basically only bacteria for few billion years). Technological civilisations? ...well, even ours is like that only for a fraction of its existence.

(regarding timescales of survival for specific artifacts - there were few productions about it, this page seems to be a good starting point [wikipedia.org] )

Re:Detecting our artifacts in a few mil. years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34053516)

Airplanes are made of aluminum mostly. It oxidizes. The thin layer of oxidized material on the outside does provide some protection from further oxidation, but not enough to stand up to millions of years. Even big thick pieces will be gone in that period of time, not to mention the thin sheets planes are made with. Cars are mostly made with steel. There are plenty of cars from twenty years ago that are rusted out husks. Railroads are made from iron and wood. Thick iron that rusts away slowly, but it still rusts away. Wood rots away, the earthshaping that's done to make the tracks erodes away. Architecture is made with wood, that rots away or burns, masonry, which erodes and falls apart, concrete and mortar which weathers away and is especially vulnerable to acids, and iron re-enforcement which, when it's exposed rusts away and when it isn't exposed, rusts away at maybe a twentieth the speed, but still rusts away. Anything we've left floating in space will shift in its orbit and lost in the vastness, not to mention torn apart gradually by erosion. The chances of being hit by an object the size of a grain of sand are billions or trillions of times less than an object sitting in a desert on earth, but the erosion an object on earth experiences from a wind-borne sand grain is a tiny scratch or divot at best whereas the sand grain in space hits like a bullet. Anything we have sitting on the surface of another planet will also be torn apart by meteorites or be slowly buried. Not to mention the fact that it would simply be very hard to find.

Re:Detecting our artifacts in a few mil. years (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34059884)

In a few million of years, our civilization should still be detectable on a geological level. We have dug out massive amounts of resources from concentrated deposits and distributed them all over the place. If I was tasked to look for traces of an ancient civilization, I'd look at resource distribution. Stuff missing from where it should be geologically at a significant amount? Someone been there before. That's the strongest argument for us being the first around here - we don't see any depletion of easily accessible resources.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050504)

why would they even have high level of technological capability?

Why not?

Lack of fossil record (before our recent primate ancestors came along) suggesting trends toward intelligence comparable to ours - much better.

We have barely got the tiniest sliver of the biological diversity at any given point for the last hundreds of millions of years. There are enormous numbers of creatures we'll never know about. Couple that with burial practices, which usually don't lend themselves to fossilisation, and we would literally never know, unless they managed to land something on an asteroid or something, and even then its really unlikely that we'd find anything.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051022)

Just look at us. We have high level of technological capability only for a fraction of the existence of our civilisation. We were quite static for millennia.

As were the neanderthals and their civilisation.

With fossils it's not quite as straightforward as you put it. It's not merely about not discovering any fossils of "them", those creatures of intelligence close to ours; also none possibly leading to them and their high intelligence.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051578)

Just look at us. We have high level of technological capability only for a fraction of the existence of our civilisation. We were quite static for millennia.

So what's the cutoff point beyond which an extinction level event would leave some members of a species alive and able to rebuild? We certainly haven't reached it yet.

it's not merely about not discovering any fossils of "them", those creatures of intelligence close to ours; also none possibly leading to them and their high intelligence.

Nope, I mean really, what percentage of the total biodiversity of any given age does the fossil record represent? A few percent? If they had existed, we'd probably never know. What we do know is that the earth's history is peppered with mass extinctions of varying sizes and dubious origin, more than a few, almost as if some dominant life form rose and did pretty much what we've done.

Added to which nobody can really quantify what constitutes intelligence, or what might lead up to it, and how much of the brain is dedicated to problem solving, memory and the like as opposed to mechanical control.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051968)

Well obviously we are not at the point of no return - but one other recent member of genus homo (one that I mentioned...) certainly did reach it. Without reaching much in terms of technological advance (despite being around much longer than us, and apparently of very comparable intelligence)

And sure, we can go even into region of swarm intelligence if we really want to. But it's not very productive, brings you more and more into the area of science fantasy without much grounding in available facts.
What we can say is that there doesn't appear to be even singular trace of any lineage (many species!) much older than but generally in the style of hominidae during the last 15 million years - with increasing brain sizes, high metabolism, high brain-body mass ratio, etc.. More - all the evidence points at quite gradual development of brain. Why ignore it?

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052958)

Well obviously we are not at the point of no return - but one other recent member of genus homo (one that I mentioned...) certainly did reach it.)

Eh so where are they now? I think you may have misread the comment, the point was that a species might have even ended up a lot more advanced than us ten million years ago and get wiped out completely.

And sure, we can go even into region of swarm intelligence if we really want to. But it's not very productive, brings you more and more into the area of science fantasy without much grounding in available facts.

That was a reference to brain to body mass ratios.

What we can say is that there doesn't appear to be even singular trace of any lineage (many species!) much older than but generally in the style of hominidae during the last 15 million years - with increasing brain sizes, high metabolism, high brain-body mass ratio, etc.. More - all the evidence points at quite gradual development of brain. Why ignore it?

I'm not ignoring it. Why are you ignoring that we have at best a tiny single digit percentage picture of all of the biodiversity at any given period? Although if you wanted to talk about graduated brain sizes, there might not have been much to distinguish mankind from many other kinds of animals even a million years ago. If mankind were to vanish today and some other species were to achieve our technological advancement in fifty million years, what evidence would remain for them to find?

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053408)

The point was that lack of technological artifacts isn't the best argument - simply because (demonstrably) civilisations don't have produce any substantial ones.

Yes, brain to body mass ratios which are very robust at roughly estimating the intelligence of group of species (groups unrelated for a long time, too, most importantly). Lower rates of metabolism in some major groups of the past wouldn't help...

You are acting like our fossil sample would be totally biased to exclude that particular lineage, supposedly changing at vastly different rates and directions than the other. That is ignoring fossils records.
And check again sizes of "our" brains from one million years ago, they were already quite big.
The issue here isn't mankind, we of course already developed many prominent technological artifacts (though most of them would be wiped away anyway) - but we did so only very recently.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053720)

You are acting like our fossil sample would be totally biased to exclude that particular lineage, supposedly changing at vastly different rates and directions than the other

Nope, I'm pointing out that the fossil record is unbelievably short of the big picture at any given point. Another poster explained it fairly well:

Consider dinosaur fossils. We've found maybe, what, 50 T-Rex fossils and not a single 100% complete skeleton. Admittedly, there are probably tons more of them to find out there, but that's not the point, even though scientists are looking, they haven't found them yet. How many T-Rex actually existed in the 15 million or so years they walked the earth. If there were never more than a million alive at one time, and they lived for 100 years, that's 150 billion of them, largely swept away by the planet over the years, and traces of civilization just don't fossilize as well as bones do.

Do you see what's being said? Its not only possible that entire lineages, many of them, are absent from the fossil record, its all but guaranteed.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054000)

Lineages which follow very different paths that all the available ones - don't conveniently forget that "small" detail.

But funnily enough, he concluded more in line with what I'm saying - "traces of civilization just don't fossilize as well as bones do" (though I also point out how, demonstrably (still on our example, and of our evolutionary relatives), most of the time is spent before that stage - and without guarantee (again, demonstrably) of achieving it at all)

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054760)

Lineages which follow very different paths that all the available ones - don't conveniently forget that "small" detail.

I find when presented with a response which goes against the basic reality of a situation, the element of rationality has vacated the premises. Whether simply unable to comprehend what is being said, invested in the idea that our species' civilisation is the first, dogmatism, or simply into getting the last word, interest wanes.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054922)

Oh, don't forget about selectively choosing to disregard important parts of quoted posts, just so what's left suits your fantasies... (but missing the ending sentence of used section) ...how cute.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055084)

Sigh... what you're saying is that the possibility does not exist because of the lack of a fossil record, which is the exact opposite of what the poster in question is saying. Let me spell this out for you - we probably have less than a single percent of the biodiversity of any given period stored in the fossil record. Not only is there room for the lineages you are looking for, there is room for hundreds of thousands of them.

Also, on the issue of fantasies, I'm not saying that any such civilisation has existed. I am, however, saying that you most certainly can't rule out the possibility.

I respect Dawkins and all that guff, but he's really spawned a lot of self righteous authoritarians on the internet, a plague previously seen in the middle ages before it gave way to true scientific curiosity and open mindedness.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055630)

Cute, now you put words in my mouth. Or really like fantasizing.

Where did I say the possibility does not exist? Where?

I said "only" how we had good reasons to assume their lack of existence (which would of course require throwing a very large part of what we know about evolution of life on this planet out the window...), how there isn't a trace, and indeed all the evidence pointing to the contrary - we have no justifiable reason assume such large discrepancies.

The most important thing I'm saying, and the other poster in almost completely not-quoted part agrees, is - let me spell this out for you - that fossil evidence (or lack thereof(*)) is a much more probable point of data than the lack of technological artifacts. Artifacts which might have been simply almost not created in the first place (I was assuming I'm speaking with somebody who can guess, when I tell about what some distant civilisation might had most likely not done, that it would require their existence in the first place; required to even contemplate what they could do or not do)

(*)That ALL the available evidence, and constantly being unearthed, evidence paints certain picture is only too convenient. But hey, since you mention Dawkins - maybe there were giants, who knows...

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055796)

Cute, now you put words in my mouth.

Better than you putting words into the mouths of others.

Or really like fantasizing.

Mmm, sarcasm is no replacement for a critical mind. Although some clearly feel that it is.

which would of course require throwing a very large part of what we know about evolution of life on this planet out the window...)

On the contrary, it merely involves educating you on the limits of our knowledge, which doesn't take long.

we have no justifiable reason assume such large discrepancies.

In flat defiance of the clear predominance of possibility pointed out by the poster you misrepresented, and which you have thus far failed to refute.

That ALL the available evidence, and constantly being unearthed, evidence paints certain picture is only too convenient. But hey, since you mention Dawkins - maybe there were giants, who knows...

You're not interested in evidence. You should, however, look up calls to authority as they were used in the medieval period. Most of us have moved on, you know.

Re:we weren't the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34054328)

Without evidence, there's no reason to believe it. Since there is no evidence left of any ancient civilization, there is no reason to believe one exists. That's the way science works. Speculation is fun, but largely useless unless some physical evidence can be provided to support it. Also lack of disproof does not constitute proof. Is it possible there was an ancient advanced civilization? Well, anything's possible. However,, as there is no evidence to indicate this civilization. We have no justifiable reason to believe in it.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054826)

Without evidence, there's no reason to believe it. Since there is no evidence left of any ancient civilization, there is no reason to believe one exists. That's the way science works.

The argument in question is one of whether or not such a civilisation or civilisations could have existed, and we would know nothing about it. The answer is unarguably yes. Sznupi seems to feel that a lack of fossil record leading to homonid intelligence denies the possibility of such a happening, despite that the fossil record is in all likelihood less than one percent of all the biodiversity in any particular period in time.

Re:we weren't the first (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34056546)

If mankind were to vanish today and some other species were to achieve our technological advancement in fifty million years, what evidence would remain for them to find?

LM descent stages on the moon. Satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The lunar hardware should be recognizably artificial even after a billion years. GEO is stable because of minima in the earth's gravitational field. Satellites will slide along the orbit and collect (some of them) over Sri Lanka (Arthur Clarke loved that bit). Once in that stable location only impacts will move them out.

Practically everything on Earth will be gone. maybe a few durable metal components will survive. I once visited an old graveyard in Ireland. Gravestones more than 300 years old had eroded to unreadability.

Re:we weren't the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34059772)

hell, we nearly went that way. The diesel engine was originally designed to run on peanut oil.
gas engines just so happened to have been designed first (and those were designed around an alcohol fuel cycle anyway)

The only waste that would even remotely last at that level of time would be radioactives with long half lives. and the funny thing is we find that stuff in a few places all over the world (mainly africa) .

conspiracy theories start now.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051446)

Geosynchronous orbit is not forever, the Earth will have a gravitational pull on it and eventually bring it down.

Without a civilization there to monitor the satellites and perform stationkeeping routines, eventually they would come down.

Re:we weren't the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34053546)

The moon is a satellite. Watch out! The moon eventually is coming down! Or spiraling out! One or the other! And remember, the Earth will have a pull on the geosynchronous orbit! The Earth doesn't pull on the geosynchronous orbit now but, just wait, the Earth will!

Re:we weren't the first (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054280)

Spiraling out, because of the rotation of the Earth. And that's slowing the Earth's day down in the process.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052118)

Then there is all the fossil fuel we are burning. Why would an earlier civilisation leave it for us?

The oil *was* the earlier civilization.

Re:we weren't the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34052774)

Stable even over tens of millions of years? I would think that the cumulative effects of solar wind over that time might have some consequences on such an orbit. Not to mention degradation from solar wind and solar radiation. The satellites we make tend to be composed of all kinds of thin sheets of metal and the like. Millions of years of exposure to a full spectrum of EM radiation and streams of charged particles from the sun would tend to strip them apart. Very, very slowly, but surely. Not to mention all the tiny bits of space rock and possibly the occasional larger one that could completely annihilate it. Frankly, I've never understood how anyone could look at, for example, our heavily scarred moon and conclude that floating in space, close to Earth's orbit, without a protective atmosphere is a great place to preserve things for millions of years.

Here on earth, we keep on discovering lost cities all over the place. Often just in the form of traces of their foundations. Buried, or lost under the sea, or what have you. Generally they're pretty heavily eroded. Consider the sphinx which, if it hadn't been buried, would be gone, or at least unrecognizable as a man-made thing by now due to erosion. Look at the freaking pyramids, falling prey to erosion after just a few thousand years. Sure, it would probably take ten times that long for them to be completely eroded away, but it's obvious that, barring extraordinary circumstances (active preservation by humans being one of those), they won't be there in a million years. And the pyramids are massive, much more so than any structure humans build today, even the ones that are "bigger" than the pyramids. The big structures of today are mostly air and relatively thin layers and are made of lime and iron, which, once exposed to the elements, are rendered down by the environment in no time. Without constant maintenance, our biggest cities would be gone easily within a million years.

Think about all the things you've seen in museums. All the coins and tools and everything. Even the things that are called "remarkably well preserved" have obvious signs of wear from the actions of time. It's also obvious that only a fraction of what was around thousands of years ago is around today. Multiply that time by a hundred, let alone a thousand and which of those things won't have worn clean through.

Consider dinosaur fossils. We've found maybe, what, 50 T-Rex fossils and not a single 100% complete skeleton. Admittedly, there are probably tons more of them to find out there, but that's not the point, even though scientists are looking, they haven't found them yet. How many T-Rex actually existed in the 15 million or so years they walked the earth. If there were never more than a million alive at one time, and they lived for 100 years, that's 150 billion of them, largely swept away by the planet over the years, and traces of civilization just don't fossilize as well as bones do.

I think that it's entirely possible that technological civilizations built by other intelligent species could have sprung up on earth millions of years ago and we haven't found a trace of them yet. I'm not going to say it's probable in any way that such civilizations have arisen, just that, if they have, there's no good reason to think we should have found any evidence of them.

Re:we weren't the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34053130)

You realize that the corollary of your rule that earlier civilizations would have necessarily used all the fossil fuels is that civilizations can't do without fossil fuels. In other words, when we're done with fossil fuels, bye bye civilization. Fortunately, civilization actually can exist without using fossil fuels, possibly even one as resource hungry as ours. We've only really been making use of fossil fuels heavily for a few hundred years, even though human civilization goes back many thousands of years. Also, we foresee a time in the relatively near future when we'll stop using these fossil fuels and move to alternative sources of energy (or suffer a massive die-off) because we'll simply run out (discussion of oil shales as alternatives is well and good, but if they're viable, they're moot for this discussion because they're so plentiful that a prior civilization wouldn't have exhausted them). It's entirely conceivable that a prior civilization skipped exploiting that particular natural resource. Of course, all this ignores the simple fact that fossil fuels are actually a renewable resource. New deposits of dead living things turn into coal and oil. For that matter, oil wells refill through seepage from below or around them. All those oil shales and other bituminous deposits get cooked by geothermal heat and time and pockets of easy to pump, sweet crude form anew. The problem we have with fossil fuels isn't that they run out like the various species we've driven to extinction. We aren't going to manage to drive _oil_ to extinction. The problem is the flow rate and the cost of achieving that flow rate. We may soon not be able to meet the demand for fossil fuels without the price for meeting that demand rising too high. The absolute limiting factor is when it takes more energy than you can get out of a barrel of oil to extract a barrel of oil. This ignores all of the other sustainability problems with fossil fuels where our use of them strains the environment in so many ways. In any case, it's obvious that any prior civilization could have either not used fossil fuels, or could have used them like crazy, exhausting all that were available to them at the time, and we still wouldn't notice today as long as they did it long enough ago.

Re:we weren't the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34063714)

If a prior civilization had left artifacts in space, would we actually know we were looking at them? Human civilizations are typically identified by the trash they leave behind, a NONhuman civilization might not tolerate such waste of resources. Moreover, what WE view as artifacts might be entirely unrecognizable to something else as such.

While we don't have any clear examples of nonhuman civilizations to point at in our daily lives, an argument can be made of the possibility of such, one fine example might be to observe various insect societies. Nonhuman intelligence could be modeled after such societies, and might even be more efficient in doing so. Another example could be the advancement of A.I. technology. While not a civilization, per se, there may come a time where that may change, and it's not much of a stretch to consider that it need not be modeled after human behaviors at all. Most technology currently reflects the mindset of it's users, and the way those users interact with the world. If the technology IS the user, then many of the limitations of human points of view are no longer strictly necessary.

Our reliance on fossil fuels belies an important human perspective, namely, the use of fire as a tool. Even our usage of nuclear technology is generally just an extended application of steam technology, which holds its roots in our use of fire. Ants may not be intelligent in the way we are, but they do build complex societies, do build cities (of a sort), do act cooperatively, farm, engage in "animal husbandry", engage in acts of war, and are even capable of problem solving in a limited sense. One important thing to note, however, ants don't typically use fire. We are not ants, and ants are not human. Any alien societies, should they exist, will be defined by whatever resources they have on hand, and it is not a given that such resources will include fire, we would do well to bear that in mind and actually think outside the firebox when regarding such possibilities.

Re:we weren't the first (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054252)

Your use of "most likely" and "civilizations" are inept.

Homo sapiens is the first and only civilization on this planet.

There have been several ages of development of life [klangart.ch] , but sapience has only shown itself once, that we have evidence of, and we have no evidence that there was any capacity to develop it at any point in the past.

I don't even know why I need to point this out. I mean, what the fuck, this is 3rd-grade science class stuff.

Re:we weren't the first (2, Interesting)

laron (102608) | more than 3 years ago | (#34056848)

Not very likely. Pottery for example has been produced by pretty much every known civilization and lasts "forever". The same would go for gold objects.
Did you find any shards or jewelery that don't fit to any known human civilization?

Not found in Asia (5, Informative)

Vingborg (141225) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047270)

The fossils were NOT found i Asia, but in Libya, which was and is a part of Africa. The point of the paper is, that the variety of fossils indicate a much deeper evolutionary history than the African fossil record accounts for, and that Asia is the likely candidate for the earliest primates.

Re:Not found in Asia (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047448)

What TFS even tries to say? That our lineage turns out to be not contained strictly to Africa, since the emergence of first live on this planet? I don't think anybody claimed that...

(and I seem to recall there were already some arguments (phylogenetic?) that our "mammalian lineage" was primarily in Asia for a long time)

Re:Not found in Asia (3, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047572)

Rule of thumb: Coffee first, attempts to form coherent sentences second.

Re:Not found in Asia (1)

mpeskett (1221084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047616)

The only mangled part was "That our lineage turns out to be not contained strictly to Africa, since the emergence of first live on this planet?", which isn't hard to figure out if you swap "live" for "life (easy mistake)

"That our lineage may not be entirely contained within Africa all the way back to the emergence of first life on this planet" might be clearer, but don't be an ass about it; GP's probably not a native English speaker.

Re:Not found in Asia (1)

mldi (1598123) | more than 3 years ago | (#34056648)

What TFS even tries to say? That our lineage turns out to be not contained strictly to Africa, since the emergence of first live on this planet? I don't think anybody claimed that...

(and I seem to recall there were already some arguments (phylogenetic?) that our "mammalian lineage" was primarily in Asia for a long time)

I guess I'm still in BSG mode, because at first glance I could have sworn that said "since the emergence of the first five on this planet". I was going to correct the typo (should be *final* five, damnit!).

Re:Not found in Asia (2, Insightful)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050792)

I thought that primates arising in Asia was standard. I don't remember the time-line, but I thought they arose in Asia where the Gibbons and then Orangutangs split off, and then some migrated to Africa where the rest of the primates developed.

40 million years is a rather long span of time, so I don't see any problems. The only catch is that Libya is in Africa, so this means that primates need to have been widely distributed by then. Either that or done an awful lot of migrating and dying out in the home range. Wider distribution seems more likely.

P.S.: Primates don't generally fossilize well. When they die their bones are usually moved by predators and cracked for marrow. And most of them don't live in terrain that facilitates fossilization. (People are exceptional in this regard.) This is one of the reasons why fossils of primates are often causes for rejoicing. (Egotism is, of course, the other reason.)

So... Mormons? (0, Troll)

H3xx (662833) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047282)

Does this mean that the native Africans from the fossil records didn't come along after the white people and kill them?

Libya != Africa? (4, Informative)

shiznatix (924851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047320)

"The discovery of four ancient, lemur-like creatures in what is now Libya suggests the human family tree’s taproot is in the Middle East, not Africa."

Correct me if I am wrong but Libya is in Africa. Nowhere in the article does it mention any Asian country. It says that these were found in Libya which is Africa but then goes on about these animals crossing over from Asia to Africa. So, where exactly were these fossils found?

Re:Libya != Africa? (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047332)

The diversity and timing of the new anthropoids raises two scenarios. Anthropoids might simply have emerged in Africa much earlier than thought, and gone undiscovered by modern paleontologists. Or they could have crossed over from Asia, where evidence suggests that anthropoids lived 55 million years ago, flourishing and diversifying in the wide-open ecological niches of an anthropoid-free Africa.

So the only older evidence of these animals is in Asia, suggesting they came from there originally.

Re:Libya != Africa? (2, Informative)

nomad-9 (1423689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047388)

The point is that these primate fossils show that they might have colonized Africa from somewhere else. Why? Because of the sudden appearance of such diversity while there is no earlier fossil evidence.

The most likely place would be Asia. Why? Probably because of the earlier findings of old fossils there and that one of the Libyan anthropoids resembled one found in Asia.

Re:Libya != Africa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34059148)

Further analysis will reveal that these creatures originated from Vancouver, Canada and left fairly quickly out of shear boredom. They all traveled up the coast without fatalities (hence no fossil record), and crossed over the Bering Straight ice bridge. Here is where tragedy struck. After an out of control ice ball fight, some fell into the frigid water and died of pneumonia sometime later (~ 1million years) on the Asian continent. The rest trudged on aimlessly ending up in Libya, where some more dropped off due to the exhausting trip. Since they fell over on their sides, the clever scientists were able to deduce they were headed to Africa from Asia since their backs were facing Asia and their frontal parts were facing Africa.
Mystery solved.

Better Article Here (5, Informative)

Jagen (30952) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047380)

There in a link in the comments section to a much better article that explains why even though these fossils are from Africa they are being linked to primate origins in Asia.
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/10/where-did-all-these-primates-come-from-fossil-teeth-may-hint-at-an-asian-origin-for-anthropoid-primates/ [wired.com]

Paleogeology (2, Interesting)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047546)

Indeed... this article is better (thanks for pointing that out).

What I haven't found in the article though is how monkeys are supposed to cross over from Asia to Africa...
Here is a map of how the continents were connected about 50 million years ago [wikipedia.org] . It seems to me that it would have been a long swim.

It would be nice to see the two fields of study (paleogeology [wikipedia.org] and paleontology [wikipedia.org] to combine their efforts.

Re:Paleogeology (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047702)

Same way their ancestors [wikipedia.org] spread over North America and Europe somewhere around 60 million years ago.

Aliens carried them around as pets.

Re:Paleogeology (2, Informative)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047812)

Here's one way [wikipedia.org] . We know it's happened with various other species - assuming these "monkeys" of yours weren't too big, this method would fork quite well for them.

Travelling Wilberries (3, Funny)

BrightSpark (1578977) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047424)

Of course your African primates are non-migratory you see...

Re:Travelling Wilberries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34054388)

They could be carried!

Greetings from 4chan!!!11 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34047526)

Of course there was another, cleaner and more intelligent species of primates from which humans evolved, while niggers simultaneously appeared in Africa.

Re:Greetings from 4chan!!!11 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34048340)

Fuck of whitey. You would be scared to walk up to a brother at night coz he could easily rape your white ass, but come with that stupid racist shit on the internets.

Quick Question (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#34047528)

Where is the Carnegie Museum Of Natural History Scientists located, and does it keep them in formaldehyde, or are they just pinned to the wall with a glass pane in front?

Monolith (2, Funny)

skywatcher2501 (1608209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34048280)

Does TFA mention traces of tall dark monoliths nearby? We might need to take a closer look at the magnetic field of the Moon :D

Re:Monolith (1)

ricosalomar (630386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050274)

Tycho, specifically.

But did they have the liberal gene? (0, Offtopic)

ekimminau (775300) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051114)

What I really want to know is whether or not they had the liberal gene?
http://www.medicaldaily.com/news/20101027/3003/researchers-find-a-liberal-gene.htm [medicaldaily.com]

Re:But did they have the liberal gene? (2, Funny)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054582)

Stop attempting to insinuate that liberals are genetic mutants.

Re:But did they have the liberal gene? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058836)

But they are genetic mutants!
http://www.medicaldaily.com/news/20101027/3003/researchers-find-a-liberal-gene.htm

African Genesis Theory is merely "convenient" (2, Insightful)

Baby Duck (176251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051506)

We don't really know where early hominds or early primates came from. Signs point to Africa merely because 1) it geologically has a good track record of fossilization and 2) yearly powerful rains directly pounding millions year-old exposed mud and rock make it easy to find fossils at ground level. For all we know, early primates and hominids could have come from where Detroit or Seoul or Sydney currently is. If those sites are geologically poor at lending itself to fossilization, we'd never know.

Re:African Genesis Theory is merely "convenient" (1)

danlip (737336) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053088)

There are great fossil beds scattered all over the world. It's true that the fossil record are somewhat erratic, but not so bad that we would be that far off base.

Totally incorrect terminology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34052770)

This is a horribly muddled article.

- As stated above, the specimens were found in Africa, not Asia.
- Lemurs are part of the Suborder Strepsirrhini, which is entirely different from monkeys (Suborder Haplorrhini) [both are primates however]
- This specimen is highly unlikely to be a monkey, as monkeys first appear approx 25 mya (15 million years after these specimens)
- "Anthropoids" is term used in an old phenetic-based system of classification (currently we use a cladistics-based approach as above). Even if you are using that system, lemurs are NOT anthropoids, they are prosimians.

This article says literally nothing of value about this specimen except that it is ostensibly a primate and is 40 my old.

Re:Totally incorrect terminology (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054520)

1. It's a Wired article.

2. It's not really an article, it's a summary. /. doesn't have any experience with those being of poor quality, which is why this one caught it unawares. Its real purpose is to make you click on a link at Wired before googling for the real article that it doesn't bother to link to though it links to dozens of advertisers and a honey-pot of cascading abysses of other Wired articles - sorry, summarylinktraps.

3. The real article is in Nature, which is usually a little better at getting facts right. But also depends on revenue from what was known in the past as a "magazine", and so has embargoed truth and fact from the in-tar-webs by setting up what is known in the future as a "paywall". If anyone knows how to ePolevault this, please warez it:

Late middle Eocene epoch of Libya yields earliest known radiation of African anthropoids [nature.com]

Wow. That title must have made the "editors" at Wired put down their wiimotes for almost ten seconds.

Creative Days were all 7,000 Years Long (1)

ImitationEnergy (993881) | more than 3 years ago | (#34059080)

We're now in the 7th Creative Day. Adam was created in 4,026 BCE, Eve sometimes after that. The ""universe" was created before the Creative Days even began, untold eons before as it says "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". In short my friends all of the so-called "Christian" churches of the world have lied to you for almost 2,000 years. Not to mention it but the Mayans and their calendar is also a lie. Try December 21 2010 because since when is the number 2 to be trusted hmm? 20-10 => decimal. The only ones who have the straight Bible Truth is Jehovah's Witnesses => http://www.watchtower.org/ [watchtower.org] if you want to live through Armageddon into God's New World.

hehehe Crash course. Jesus said pray your flight not occur in winter? Why goodness me, that's NOW. So what if Jesus was really born in October... before the flocks had been brought into the caves for winter. sshhh, Israel winter, northern hemisphere. Want more? http://tinyurl.com/free-men-number-1 [tinyurl.com] six pages of posts. It's your last bullet. Use it wisely.

Jim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34059158)

What does this mean for Dawkins' "We are all Africans" t-shirt sales?

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