Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Afarensis Nomen Debate

Difference of opinions concerning the attribution of fossils found at Laetoli and Hadar; one group (led by Mary Leakey) felt that these early pre-habilines should be placed in the genus Homo, while another (Johanson, White, and others) erected the taxon Australopithecus afarensis for these specimens. The first group felt that the new taxon contained more than one species and that, as the holotype had come from Laetoli and not the Afar triangle, the selection of the specific nomen was itself inappropriate. Tobias had suggested subspecific taxa to resolve the issue (A. africanus aethiopicus for Johanson’s Ethiopian fossils, and A. A. tanzaniensis for Leakey’s), but Johanson presented his description first, thus establishing priority.

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