Friday, September 08, 2006

A Disturbing Thought: Homo and Lystrasaurus

As I've said here, I have been working my way through the books I have about the Late Permian and the PT Event. I have been gathering notes, digesting - again - what they mean, and doing a mostly poor job of organizing them. There's a lot to do and a lot to think about. However, somewhere along the way I had a very striking and a very disturbing thought.

Is Homo the modern equivalent of Lystrasaurus?

Lystrasaurus was a critter that survived the PT Event. In fact, it became ubiquituous and ranged across all the continents from Antarctica to Siberia. There hasn't ever been a critter that survived as well as our friends here until we came. It was herbivorous and about, iirc, two meters long. Benton called it the 'pig' of the PT Event, but it was a generalist and could eat about least anything in the foliage department. It is normally referred to as one of a few disaster taxa: animals or plants that bloom across areas that have suffered through a mass extinction and exploit the situation. When digging through the early Triassic to find fossils, Lystrasaurus is ubercommon and the paleontologists at least in books are unhappy to find it. Thousands of them, frex, have been found in the Karoo in South Africa - one of the two places that I know of to get good Permian vertebrate fossils from the time period in question.

Now look to us. All our competitors are gone, just like Lystrasaurus. We range all over the planet, yet another parallel. We can eat damned near anything, even better than our friend Lyssie. When the time comes, and we're long gone as a species, what will the paleontologists of 250 million + years think? Were we the great world straddlers that we think we are? Or are we just the mammalian equivalent of Lystrasaurus? Will the future paleontologists bemoan yet another Homo fossil?

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