Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ardipithecus ramidus (Ardi) a 4.4 Million year human ancestor fossil found in Ethiopia on Thursday 01 Oct 2009

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Dear Global Patriotic Citizens and Friends of African Union and Ethiopia

The Science journal of 02 October 2009 has announced the discovery of yet another fossil skeleton predating Lucy by some one Million years, estimated to be 4.4 million years old. This pushes the legend, story and science of human ancestry by one million years.

Ardi, short for Ardipithecus ramidus is the newest fossil skeleton found in the Western Afar Rift/Awash Valley Time Capsule treasure trove. Lucy was estimated to be 3.2 million and she was classified as Australopithecus afarensis.

The first fragments of Ardi were first found i 1992, some seventeen years ago.

Scientists claim that Ardi will replace Lucy as the earliest known skeleton from the human branch of the primate family tree, taing the first evolutionary steps since humans diverged from with our common ancestors with the chimpanzees. The scientists further stated that no modern ape is a realistic proxy for characterizing early hominid evolution.

It is expected that Ardi stood some 4 feet tall and weighed about 120 pounds, almost a foot taller and twice the weight of Lucy

Its brain is no larger than that of a modern chimp. This is considered a realistic proxy for characterizing early hominid evolution.

Its very long arms were used for retaining its agility for free-climbing and walked upright with two legs and its foot did not yet developed the characteristic arch.

Its very long arms and short legs resembled the proportion of extinct apes.

The discovery site is an arid flood plain along the Awash River in Ethiopia. It is 140 miles North East of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital and 45 miles South of Hadar where the legendary Lucy was discovered in 1974.

Dr Suwa of Japan, specialist in fossil teeth, commented that the canine teeth looked more like humans or pre-humans than chimps and gorrilas who in contrast have projecting upper canines.

It is reported that there are several fossils found in the same area that range from 5 to 6 million years and it is likely more older hominid finds will be announced once they are able to reconstruct the composiete skeleton.

Surely, this is an interesting time for anthropology and and earliest human ancestral studies and trust the security in the region will continue to allow more discoveries and may be even new fossil hunters expedition green tourists.

Dr B

Move Over, Lucy; Ardi May Be Oldest Human Ancestor


EnlargeJ.H. Matternes

An artist's rendering of what Ardipithecus ramidus, aka "Ardi," may have looked like. This female stood about 1.2 meters, or about 4 feet, tall.

text sizeAAAOctober 1, 2009
Scientists on Thursday unveiled a fossil human ancestor dating back 4.4 million years — a creature more ancient than the famous fossil "Lucy." And, the scientists say, even more important than Lucy.

The team that discovered the fossil, called Ardipithicus ramidus, say it's the closest thing yet found to the common ancestor of both chimps and humans. That common ancestor is thought to have lived about 6 million years ago. From that animal, chimps and other apes evolved in one direction, while our own ancestors, the hominids, evolved through several forms into what we are now.

The anthropologists found the bones in Ethiopia, in a desert region called Aramis. Scientists have previously discovered a few teeth and bones of Ardipithicus, dating from 5 to 6 million years ago. But in this case, they have more than 100 bones from 36 individuals, including a partial skeleton of a female whom they've dubbed "Ardi."

The area excavated "was a time capsule with contents that nobody had ever seen before," says anthropologist Tim White, of the University of California, Berkeley, and the team co-leader.

EnlargeKent State University

Dr. C. Owen Lovejoy, Kent State University professor of anthropology, stands next to the reconstructed skeleton of "Lucy." A team of researchers including Lovejoy have discovered a skeleton older than "Lucy," nicknamed "Ardi."
The skull had been crushed into scores of pieces, says White. But after years of reconstruction work, White says, "what we have is a very small-brained cranium of an early female hominid that is very different from a chimpanzee."

That's critical, White says. "People have sort of assumed ... that the last common ancestor was more or less like a chimpanzee." Ardi suggests otherwise — that in fact the earliest known hominid was a "mosaic," with some features like chimps but others like monkeys, such as the feet.

Other features are more like the more recent hominid, Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), such as the teeth. For example, the canine teeth near the front of the mouth in both male and female Ardipithicus are much smaller than a chimp's canines.

"It's just a treasure trove of surprises," says C. Owen Lovejoy, one of the leaders of the team and an anthropologist at Kent State University. Take the small canines, he says. A chimp's big, protruding canines — especially the males' — are for fighting or intimidating other males to get access to females, Lovejoy says. Small canines on Ardipithicus suggest a different social strategy.

"So females are picking males that are using some other technique to obtain reproductive success, and that technique is probably exchanging food for copulation," Lovejoy says.

White and Lovejoy say that the hand and arm bones, as well as bones from the feet and pelvis, suggest that Ardi was able to walk on two legs. But it was probably more comfortable in the trees, though it maneuvered on its palms in a way different from chimps.

EnlargeT. White
The cover of Science showing the partial skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominid species living about 4.4 million years ago in Ethiopia.
The team spent almost two decades collecting everything from animal bones to pollen in the region. They conclude that Ardi lived in a lush, wooded environment, not the grassy savanna usually thought to be the habitat of the earliest human ancestors.

"This is more important than Lucy," says anthropologist Alan Walker of Penn State University. The number of bones and its greater antiquity give scientists a wealth of new information on this earliest part of human evolution. At the same time, he says, the team's conclusions will draw a lot of skepticism from other scientists.

Among the skeptics is Bernard Wood, professor of anatomy at George Washington University. Wood says it could well be that these bones belonged to a creature that evolved outside the line that led to humans — that it was in fact a separate branch of primate evolution that disappeared into a dead end, like so many other forms of ancient life.

The scientific community will now get a chance to test the team's conclusions, which are outlined in 11 papers — with 47 authors — in the journal Science.

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