Discuss the incompleteness of the fossil record and the resulting uncertainties about human evolution.

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Incompleteness of the Fossil Record

▪       Fossilisation is an exceptionally rare occurrence that requires an unusual combination of special conditions

▪       Most living things tend to decompose rapidly (or be scavenged) following death

▪       Fossilisation tends to favour hard body parts (bone, teeth, shells, etc.) and exposed fossils will soon be weathered / destroyed

▪       Only a small percentage of fossils have been discovered - fossilisation favours species that were long-lived and widespread

 

Significance of Incompleteness of the Fossil Record

▪       Individual fossils may not be representative of species (e.g. Homo floresiensis - 'Hobbit' man)

·      Very few complete skeletons have been discovered, and so paleoanthropology is an inductive (data-poor) science

·      Many conclusions have been drawn on limited data and are frequently re-interpreted in the light of new discoveries

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