26 July 2010

3D Visualization of the Fossil Distribution of the Human-Chimpanzee Total Clade

What it says.
Click on the image to open the visualization.
I've been compiling data on "pan-mangani" fossils. This is my first March of Man toolshop post in a while: a 3D visualization of that data, where the horizontal axis is longitude, the vertical axis is latitude, and depth (the z-axis) is age. The "blobs" each represent a fossilized individual, and you can mouse over them to see what their taxon is.

Some data is missing, notably a lot of entries for our own species. Other data needs to be refined—some of the better-known species (ahem, Neandertals) are big clouds that need to be tied down to specific sites. Also, I obviously need to do more work on that present-day distribution map. But it's a decent start.

Fun things to do:

  • See if you can find the oldest individual (the lone specimen of Sahelanthropus tchadensis).
  • Try to find its Chadian compatriots.
  • Find the earliest non-African individuals (hint: East Europe and the Malayan Archipelago).
  • Wonder what the heck that thing in India is.
  • Look for the single cluster of extinct chimpanzees (Pan sp.).
  • Find the three subspecies of Homo sapiens other than our own. (Note: these may not be distinct from each other—I just prefer to err on the side of splitting for projects like these. Easier to revise later.)
  • Marvel at how easy it is to become sympathetic to multiregionalism when you just view the distribution data without any morphological context and ignore the fact that not all regions are good for preservation.
  • Wonder how people can possibly believe in baraminology in the face of such ample evidence. (Adding morphological data to this would help a lot—there really aren't any good "cutoff" points for our lineage.)

Better version here.


  1. Wow, very impressive! Images like this should be shown to anyone who still believes that "the entire collection of human fossils could fit in a shoebox".

    What's your temporal cutoff point for inclusion of specimens to this chart? (Older than from the Holocene?)

    "Marvel at how easy it is to become sympathetic to multiregionalism when you just view the distribution data without any morphological context and ignore the fact that not all regions are good for preservation."

    Food for thought.

  2. Thanks!

    There's no temporal cutoff; it's just that I haven't gotten around to finishing our subspecies yet. (There are an awful lot of specimens.) I probably should consider making the Holocene a cutoff point, though. (It's laggy enough as it is.)

    Working on a slightly different version now....