The age of the earliest recovered fossil evidence of a hominin taxon is all too often equated with that taxon’s origination. However, the earliest known fossil record nearly always postdates, sometimes by a substantial period of time, the true origination of a taxon. Here we evaluate the first appearance records of the earliest potential hominins (Sahelanthropus, Ardipithecus, Orrorin), as well as of the genera Australopithecus, Homo, and Paranthropus, to illustrate the considerable uncertainty regarding the actual timing of origin of these taxa. By placing confidence intervals on the first appearance records of early hominin taxa, we can better evaluate patterns of hominin diversity, turnover, and potential correlations with climatic and environmental changes.
“Estimating origination times from the early hominin fossil record”