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March 1st, 2006


During my biological anthropology lab earlier today I was involved in a debate with another student in the class regarding the unidentified skeletal remains we were examining. We were given four skulls and told to identify whether they were primates and, if so, to which species or family they belonged. Our lively discussion came about from my classmate holding the opinion that there was no way it could possibly be a primate based on the angle of the orbital sockets, lack of a postorbital bar or enclosure, homogenous dentition (when all the teeth look the same), and split lower jaw - claiming that it was "obviously" a reptile's skull. Meanwhile, I thought that it was a prosimian (Suborder: Strepsirrhini) due to the size of the orbital sockets in relation to the rest of the skull, heterogenous dentition (there appeared to be at least three different types of teeth), dental comb (incisors that have fused together to create a specialized tooth for grooming and gnawing trees for sap), and split lower jaw.

A photograph of the skull itself can be found here if you're interested in taking a look for yourself. It is, in fact, from a Colugo, or flying lemur, which isn't technically a primate at all but was long thought to be one (along with tree shrews) and is generally believed to be closely-related to primates through a common ancestor. Neither of us was actually right, but it was still a fun pursuit.

Today also saw Violet and myself arguing against Wendell over the distinctions to be made between race, ethnicity, nation, and culture. Despite the fact that it was two anthropologists against one physicist Wendell seemed unwilling to accept that his self-generated definitions might not be completely accurate. He even bandied about the word obviously as though there couldn't possibly be any logical alternatives to his own way of thinking. Between this and our earlier disagreement over whether spiders are arthropods I have the impression that he doesn't like to admit his errors once he gets started on a subject. The problem with knowing people like this is that I no longer have the temperment to argue endlessly against them, yet any attempt at changing the topic seems to fill them with a smug sense of victory. Well, as long as their egos don't get hurt, right?