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9781421442945
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9781421442945
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Functional Inference in Paleoanthropology

Theory and Practice

It is common for two functional anatomists to examine the exact same fossil material, yet argue over its evolutionary significance. How can this be?

Traditionally, paleoanthropology has interpreted hominin fossil morphology by first considering the ecological challenges hominins faced, then drawing adaptive inferences based on the idea that skeletal morphology is largely a reflection of paleoecology. In Functional Inference in Paleoanthropology, innovative paleoanthropologist David J. Daegling suggests that researchers can resolve dichotomous interpretations of the fossil record by instead focusing on the biology and development of the bones themselves—such as measurable responses to deformations, stresses, and damage. Critically exploring how scientists probe and interpret fossil morphology for behavioral and adaptive inferences, Daegling makes the case that an intelligible science of functional morphology in the fossil record is impossible without the inclusion of this mechanobiological perspective.

Drawing on historical examples from long-standing debates on the emergence of bipedality and the dietary shifts that facilitated the emergence of the hominin clade, Daegling traces the disjunctions between theoretical principles of comparative morphology and methodological practice in the paleontological context of human evolution. Sharing rich findings from recent decades of research in skeletal biomechanics, Functional Inference in Paleoanthropology examines how bone adapts over the lifespan, what environmental factors influence its quality, and how developmental constraints limit the skeleton's adaptive potential over evolutionary time.

About the Author

David J. Daegling is a professor of anthropology at the University of Florida. He is the author of Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend.

Reviews

"Presenting a critical overview of functional morphological research as applied to human evolution, Daegling adopts an approach steeped in the philosophy of science to provide a broad view of what functional morphologists are trying to do, what crucial (and often tacit or even unconscious) assumptions they make, and ultimately whether they are actually able to answer the questions they seek to address. As a practitioner in this type of research and a participant in some of the debates that have arisen, Daegling raises many thought-provoking points. An original, up-to-date, and very substantial contribution to the field."—Osbjorn Pearson, University of New Mexico

"Functional inference in paleontology writ large—but especially in paleoanthropology—is a tough topic that needed to be tackled by an experienced and respected researcher with substantial intellectual firepower. Dave Daegling is a thoughtful and uncompromising scientist who satisfies all three of these criteria. This book will become a go-to volume for researchers and students alike."—Bernard Wood, Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology George Washington University

The Johns Hopkins University Press

9781421442945 : functional-inference-in-paleoanthropology-daegling
Hardback
280 Pages
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