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ANALYSIS OF ARDIPITHECUS RAMIDUS
In the century and a half since Darwin first published On the Origin of Species, we have learned a great deal about human evolution. Now, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Darwin's seminal work, Science is publishing a set of papers that provide a new view of human evolution.
Produced by an international team of researchers including first authors Tim White, Giday WoldeGabriel, Antoine Louchart, Gen Suwa, and C. Owen Lovejoy, these 11 papers comprise a detailed and voluminous look at all aspects of Ardipithecus ramidus including one remarkably complete specimen (ARA-VP-6/500) discovered in Ethiopia.
Dated to 4.4 million years ago, Ardipithecus ramidus (nicknamed "Ardi") provides powerful new insights into evolution of both early humans and other close primate relatives (the chimpanzee and gorilla) and helps reveal the nature of our last common ancestor with chimpanzees. Ardi lived about a million years before "Lucy" - Australopithecus afarensis - and its species may well have evolved into Lucy's species. One of the more striking features of Ardipithecus is its bipedalism (as indicated by pelvic and othe skeletal features) combined with grasping toes! This could suggest that bipedalism may have preceeded the branching off of chimps from humans - something to ponder.
Be sure to read about the delicate - even "powdery" condition of these fossils, requiring years to extract, CT scan, and digitally reconstruct. Fossils of Ardi were first found in 1992, and an international team has been studying them ever since, only now, 17 years later, their comprehensive findings are being published in Science.
Be sure to download and print out the 5-page overview by Ann Gibbons: "A New Kind of Ancestor: Ardipithecus Unveiled." It includes some excellent figures, including a nice timeline, that you can enlarge and download for classroom projection. Also print out the Editorial by Bruce Alberts "Understanding Human Origins." These give a nice perspective to the collection of papers in that issue. The paper by Tim White, et al, on "Ardipithecus ramidus and the Paleobiology of Early Hominids" gives you a nice explanation of the site and the challenges of extracting and studying the fossil material.
ON TV: Discovery Channel
- Discovering Ardi
Link to ENSI Lesson
related to Ardipithecus:
BECOMING HUMAN: Unearthing Our
The series combines interviews with world-renowned anthropologists and paleoanthropologists and the most recent, groundbreaking discoveries with vivid images of our earliest ancestors to present a comprehensive picture of our human past. See details at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/becominghuman/
NOVA online activities surrounding evolution: On November 3rd NOVA will launch its new beta Evolution website . Carl Zimmer, Sean Carroll, Sarah Hrdy, Rick Potts and many others will contribute to the new site. We are also doing an 'open call' for evolution videos with PB Engage and The WGBH Lab (please see information below).