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3 The Ontogeny-Phylogeny Nexus in a Nutshell: Implications for Primatology and Paleoanthropology

Peter R. Menke

Partout oU quelque chose vit, il y a, ouvert quelque part, un registre ou le temps s'inscrit.

Henri Bergson

Bestimmt sich nicht auch unsere Erwartung und unsere Bereitschaft, das Neue zu horen, notwendig von dem Alten her, das uns schon eingenommen hat?

Hans-Georg Gadamer

Abstract

This chapter aims to review the relevance of ontogenic data in an evolutionary perspective. Phylogenetic investigation through developmental information is one of the most promising avenues to the elucidation of our natural history. First, the problematic integration of biological subdisciplines into the evo-devo synthesis is considered: the homeobox as Pandora's box is discussed and the important role of a comparative morphology program is emphasized. Second, the study of development reveals essential aspects of primate supraordinal relationships and does not support an archontan reality. A special note defines the traditional superorder Archonta as (1) an artifact of the Scala naturae concept, since archontans were supreme public servants of the Greek ancient world. On the other hand, it is (2) a vehicle to explain the existence of flying mammals (Chiroptera) via a gliding intermediate stage (Dermoptera). Third, the impact of neotenic ideas on paleoanthropology is retraced and current contributions describing the evolution of the human cranial base and bipedalism are presented. Man's domination by neoteny seems to be a burlesque, accurately related as pithecocentrism.

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