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ETHIOPIA's rich heritage: Lucy's birthplace is globally significant

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Author Topic: ETHIOPIA's rich heritage: Lucy's birthplace is globally significant  (Read 4211 times)
Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2008, 10:18:55 am »



           


            The Afar [Awash] River Valley  is where LUCY was found
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« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2008, 10:23:30 am »



           

             Awash National Park
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« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2008, 10:28:21 am »

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« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2008, 10:31:14 am »

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« Reply #19 on: October 04, 2008, 10:40:58 am »



                                

                                The rocks at Hadar where Lucy was discovered.
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« Reply #20 on: October 06, 2008, 10:25:14 am »









                                    'Lucy" exhibit: Science of humanity is still evolving



                                  Discoveries keep redefining what makes us who we are






By TOM PAULSON
P-I REPORTER
Oct. 6, 2008

To begin with, when considering the story of human origins, it's perhaps important to recognize that scientists still don't agree on what it is exactly that seems to have made us so distinctive when compared with all the other animals running -- or swimming or flying, or just sitting -- around on Earth today.

Sure, we have big brains, but so do creatures like elephants and dolphins. Our close genetic cousin the chimpanzee uses tools and, arguably, a form of language to coordinate banana harvests, turf battles or other activities. The bottom line is we have yet to arrive at complete scientific consensus on what makes us human beings.

"Defining what is human from what is not human often just comes down to the personal proclivities of whomever you ask, but we do know the broad strokes," said Donald Johanson, director of Arizona State University's Institute of Human Origins and the famed paleoanthropologist who discovered Lucy. "One thing that's clear is that as we move further into the past, things get more apelike."

That much is certainly widely accepted as fact within the scientific community. The problems arise as you move forward, from ape to humans, and in resolving all the gaps, conflicting hypotheses and even apparent contradictions.

"That's what I love about the theory of evolution, that the theory itself is always changing," said Katherine Taylor, a forensic anthropologist with the King County Medical Examiner's Office who examines bones for clues about crimes and cause of death.

"As a forensic scientist, my examination and conclusions have to stand up in court," Taylor said. Much of the science she relies on is the same as that used in evolutionary science and based on distinctive, measurable characteristics of humankind. But she is not allowed the same freedom to speculate like the evolutionary theorists.

"All the new discoveries that keep adding to or changing the picture just makes it exciting," Taylor said.

"It's certainly more complex today than it was years ago," said Patricia Kramer, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Washington who studies human evolutionary adaptation. "It's not a simple dot-to-dot story anymore."

When Lucy was discovered more than 30 years ago, the main argument was over whether or not humankind evolved first by growing bigger brains or by standing upright on two legs, Kramer said. The leading anthropologists of the time, Louis and Mary Leakey, held that brains came first. Johanson eventually convinced most of his colleagues, if not the fiercely stubborn Leakeys, that Lucy proved bipedalism came before big brains.

But since then, Kramer said, we have learned many more things that make for a both a richer and more complicated story. The fairly recent discovery of fossils of a potentially new species of tiny humans -- dubbed the "Hobbits" -- who appear to have lived on an island in Indonesia some 15,000 years ago is just one monkey wrench. Because they had such tiny brains but lived contemporaneous with modern humans, she said, the simple version of our story has grown even more complicated.

"But that's the way science works," Kramer said.

It's never complete, never perfect and always at risk of disruption. "That's what makes it so much fun. This is an incredibly exciting time for paleoanthropology."
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« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2008, 07:59:58 am »



The new female Homo erectus pelvis fossil from Gona








                                    1.3 million year old human fossil found in Ethiopia
 



 
© Scott Simpson / afrol News
afrol News,
14 November -

Archaeologists have found what they term "an important new fossil of a Homo erectus female pelvis from approximately 1.3 million years ago" in Ethiopia. The fossil is expected to "reveal important new information about human evolution," researchers say.

The Gona Palaeo-anthropological Research Project, a cooperation between Ethiopian and US archaeologists engaged at the prehistoric site of Gona in Ethiopia, today announced what they called an "important" discovery several years ago by Ethiopian researcher Ali Ma'anda Datto.

According to the team, this is the "first female homo erectus pelvis" ever to be found at the yielding Gona field in Ethiopia's Afar province. "This fossil reveals important new information about human evolution, especially the evolution of women and the childbirth process," the archaeologists hold.

The archaeologist team is controlled by the highly commercial "Stone Age Institute" at the US Indiana University, which is known for prioritising publicity instead of scientific transparency. For that reason, the discovery, which was made in February 2001, was kept secret for years, until an agreement had been reached for publication today in the renowned journal 'Science'.

The pelvis was found in deposits north of the Busidima River, a seasonal river that feeds into the Awash River. Research continued in the area, and an excavation carried out in 2003 yielded the right and left hip bones, and the last lumbar vertebra from one ancient woman. Numerous animal fossils, including a variety of wild antelopes, pigs, rats, horses, and reptiles were also found at the pelvis site.

The Gona site is known for the discovery of the oldest stone tools in the world dated to be around 2.6 million years old. The newly found hominid pelvis site is located some 12 kilometres from the site of these oldest stone tool discoveries.

The oldest female pelvis belonging to a hominid comes from the famous 3.2 million years old fossil skeleton widely known as "Lucy". "Lucy" was a less developed hominid species, Australopithecus afarensis, while the new fossil is the much more human-like Homo erectus. Lucy was discovered at Hadar, also in Ethiopia's Afar desert, a site that is contiguous to Gona, and located just a few kilo-
metres to the east.

The archaeologists already have managed to deduce many theories from the female pelvis found at Busidima River. It shows that homo erectus females were capable of giving birth to much larger children than earlier expected, meaning that their offsprings almost as developed as the children of modern humans. Homo erectus females were until now "believed to have delivered developmentally immature offspring with rapid brain growth after birth," the researchers say.

The discovery is one in a long line of archaeological findings explaining the few remaining details of the "missing link" between our primate ancestors and modern humans. It helps explaining the developmental state our offspring was born with during different stages of human evolution - which is
of importance considering the energy our species invests in the brain and its development and activities.

Ethiopian archaeologist Sileshi Semaw noted that "Gona has yielded important information on several critical time periods in human evolution, including the first stone tools in the world, and now the new pelvis discovery providing the first accurate estimate of the size of the birth canal dimensions of female Homo erectus', which in turn accurately reflects the size of the brain of their newborns."



By staff writer

© afrol News
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« Reply #22 on: January 27, 2009, 08:17:11 am »



AP –
In this 1983 file photo,
the fossil skeleton
known as Lucy is seen
on display at the
Cleveland Museum








                                                Seattle shows little love for Lucy fossil exhibit







Sun Jan 25, 2009
AP –
SEATTLE

– Who loves Lucy? Far fewer people than a Seattle science center hoped when officials paid millions to show the fossil remains of one of the earliest known human ancestors.

Halfway through the five-month exhibit, the Pacific Science Center faces a half-million-dollar loss resulting in layoffs of 8 percent of the staff, furloughs and a wage freeze, President Bryce Seidl said Friday.

Lucy is a 3.2 million-year-old fossilized partial skeleton of a species with chimplike features that walked upright. The discovery in 1974 in Ethiopia forced a major revision of theories about the evolution of Homo sapiens.

The fossil exhibit was successful at the first stop on the tour — Houston in 2007, but the expenses have other museums reconsidering the planned six-year, 10-city tour.

The Seattle center's staff redesigned the Lucy exhibit, adding a large section on Ethiopian history and artifacts, an audio tour and interactive displays in which visitors can put themselves in the shoes of a fossil hunter.

"It's a powerful story of evolution and culture and history ... but we're not getting the attendance we need for an exhibit of this scale," Seidl said.

The center had hoped to draw 250,000 visitors during the exhibit that ends March 8, but only 60,000 have come. Seidl blamed the recession, which has cut into arts and museum revenue nationwide, as well as December snowstorms that curtailed travel within and around Seattle.

The Lucy show cost the center about $2.25 million, Seidl estimated. That includes a $500,000 fee to Ethiopia, which plans to use the money for cultural and scientific programs.

The Field Museum in Chicago withdrew from the tour because of the cost. Debate over whether the irreplaceable fossil should be shipped around the globe led the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to drop the idea after early consideration.

"Lucy may not be anywhere other than Ethiopia after Seattle," Seidl said.

But Donald Johanson, the American anthropologist who discovered Lucy, said fascination with the skeleton remained strong.

"As I travel around the country lecturing, people seem to have a deep interest in their origins, in their roots," Johanson said.

___

Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com
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« Reply #23 on: February 10, 2009, 08:21:36 am »



Picture shows a replica of the remains of a more than 3-million-year-old female hominid known as 'Lucy' at the National Museum in Addis Ababa August 7, 2007.

(Barry Malone
/Reuters)








                                           Digital scans of "Lucy" take pre-humans inside out






Sat Feb 7, 2009
… HOUSTON
(Reuters)

– Digital X-rays have turned Lucy, perhaps the world's best-known pre-human, inside out, and may answer questions about how our ancestors came down from the trees and walked, scientists said on Friday.

The team at the University of Texas in Austin, in collaboration with the Ethiopian government, completed the first high-resolution computed tomography or CT scan of the human ancestor, who lived 3.2 million years ago.

"These scans we've completed at the University of Texas permit us to look at the internal architecture -- how her bones are built," anthropology professor John Kappelman, who helped lead the work scanning all 80 pieces of the skeleton, told Reuters in an interview.

Scientists hope studying a "virtual" Lucy will offer further clues about the human ancestor's lifestyle. Lucy, found in Ethiopia in 1974, is the best-preserved example of Australopithecus, a species of pre-human.

"It opens it up to people who, instead of having to travel to some distant museum to see the original, can actually call it up on the desktop," Kappelman said.

Kappelman said the scans could tell more about how Lucy's bones fit together -- and thus whether she and her kind climbed trees as well as walked.

"We're quite certain this set of studies we're going to be conducting here with the CT data are going to go some distance to resolving this long-standing question," Kappelman said.

Lucy's fossil is visiting the United States as part of a world premiere exhibit organized by the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The 3-foot- (1-meter) tall skeleton is about 40 percent complete.

"It's going to help us fill us in what was one of the earlier stages ... of our evolution to really better understand the behaviors of an extinct cousin. In some ways it's like ... being able to tune the time machine back to 3 million years ago, jump in and pop back and be able to reconstruct what this fossil was doing on a day-to-day basis," Kappelman said.

"She's arguably now and I think will be for a long time, the most famous fossil on planet Earth," he added.



(Editing by Maggie Fox and Peter Cooney)
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« Reply #24 on: February 27, 2009, 06:16:06 pm »



Osvaldo Cortez, a sixth-grader at Chief Moses Middle School, is very intrigued by a display about the cranial capacity of, from left, a chimp skull, a Lucy-era skull and a human skull, at the "Lucy's Legacy" exhibit at the Pacific Science Center.









                                        Students may be last in U.S. to see Lucy



                         Time waits for no (wo)man -- ancient evolutionary ancestor or not






By TOM PAULSON
P-I REPORTER

(Editor's Note: Officials at the Pacific Science Center say they do not know the exact amount of financial losses expected due to low attendance at the "Lucy's Legacy" exhibit. A story on page A8 in Thursday's Seattle P-I incorrectly attributed an estimate of the losses to a spokesperson. Attendance at the exhibit has doubled to about 2,000 visitors on weekend days. The story incorrectly reported the average attendance as well as the title of Diana Johns, who is the exhibit project manager.)


When the gang of sixth-graders in Kelly Frederick's class at Chief Moses Middle School heard that Lucy was not doing well, they decided to raise a fuss and do something about it.

Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old fossil remains of an ancient ancestor to modern humanity, was not doing well in terms of expected turnout at the Pacific Science Center. Despite being one of the most important finds in the study of human evolution, the $2.25 million exhibit "Lucy's Legacy" has drawn perhaps less than half the number of visitors the center had needed, something like 250,000, to simply break even. The exhibit closes March 8.

A news story went out in the media about how nobody was coming to see Lucy, about big losses and lay-offs at the center. So when sixth-graders Alex Naccarato and Mercedez Cloninger heard about this, they and their classmates decided to raise some money of their own.

"We had been studying Lucy in class," Naccarato said. They were surprised to learn the famous fossil was so close (by Moses Lake's standards, 200 miles isn't so far), and that this could be the last chance for anyone in the U.S. to see the discovery. Naccarato and Cloninger's pitch to their local paper got a story written about the students' desire to see Lucy and ended up raising enough money -- $1,600 -- from parents and other donors to cover the costs for a visit.

"We got money even from people who said they disagreed that Lucy is related to humans," Frederick said. As a science teacher, she has to walk that tightrope -- teaching about evolution while allowing for the fact that some families have serious disagreements with this central tenet of modern biology. "Everyone just wanted to support the students' interest in this."

So on Wednesday morning, two Moses Lake School District buses pulled up at the Denny Street entrance to the Pacific Science Center and disgorged 70-plus enthusiastic middle school students bent on taking advantage of perhaps a last chance to see this ancient precursor to humankind.

"It's pretty cool to get to really see her," said Cloninger, standing next to the glass box containing the bones. "She walked on two legs like us."

Classmate Hayden Martz examined several side exhibits illustrating the anatomical differences and similarities among chimpanzees, Lucy (a proto-human species technically known as Australopithicus afarensis) and modern humans. Martz was dubious about the notion that we shared a common ancestor.

"I think it's still a mystery," he said.

Sixth-grader Michael Goss, however, didn't need any convincing.

"Is it because of her bones that they could tell she was our relative?" Goss asked curator Diana Johns. Yes, Johns said, pointing to a rapt audience of 11- and 12-year-olds some features about the hip and leg bones that scientists say are clear links to modern humans.

"She's in the hominid family just like you," Johns explained and turned from the fossil bones to a life-size re-creation of what Lucy may have looked like roaming the savannas of East Africa. The students peppered her and Frederick with questions about her hands, her long arms, hair, cheekbones and why Lucy had no tail.

"This is going to prompt a lot of discussion when we get back home," said a clearly pleased Frederick. Moses Lake is a fairly conservative and religious community, she said, so she has to be careful to allow free and open debate rather than any kind of indoctrination. But clearly, Frederick said, Moses Lake loves Lucy.

So why didn't Seattle love Lucy as much as expected? With only about a week to go before the exhibit closes, perhaps for good in the U.S., staffers at the Pacific Science Center believe it was not for a lack of interest so much as a "perfect storm" of obstacles and distractions -- the economic downturn, an historic presidential election and an amazingly heavy and persistent amount of snow during the holidays.

"As a result, we've been way under our projected attendance," said Crystal Clarity, spokeswoman for the science center. The organization could lose something like a million dollars on it, Clarity said.

Due to the poor showing in Seattle (which is normally considered a good place for science exhibits), the Chicago Field Museum canceled its plan to take the exhibit. The fossils are soon to return to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which arranged for the exhibit working with the Ethiopian government, but no other museums have stepped up to take part in what had been expected to be a six-year, 10-city tour.

"This is apparently the last time anyone is going to see her in the States," said Donald Johanson, the American paleoanthropologist at Arizona State University who, with his colleagues, discovered the fossil in 1974 near the northern Ethiopian community of Hadar. "It can be a very emotional experience. I'm glad these kids understood what a great opportunity this was and took the initiative upon themselves to come see her."

Johns and Clarity said since the word went out that Lucy hasn't been doing too well, attendance has almost doubled to more than 1,000 per day on the weekends. They said science center will still suffer a financial loss, but the visit from the students of Chief Moses Middle School makes it a little easier to weather.



P-I reporter Tom Paulson can be reached at
206-448-8318 or tompaulson@seattlepi.com.
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« Reply #25 on: March 07, 2009, 07:18:33 am »



Professor Donald Johnson discovered the 3.18 million year old hominid skeleton popularly known as "Lucy" and poses with a study cast of "Lucy" skeleton and study cast of "Lucy" skull.

Arizona State University









                                  Celebrated paleoanthropologist talks about “Lucy”






March 4, 2009
Time.com

If you happen to make one of the definitive discoveries in human history, be prepared to spend the rest of your life in the limelight. Just ask Don Johanson, who went from promising young paleoanthropologist to celebrity overnight after unearthing “Lucy,” a 3.2 million-year-old fossilized skeleton that changed our perception of the human trajectory.

More than three decades after that astounding find, Johanson remains an in-demand speaker and interview subject. The founding director of Arizona State University’s Institute of Human Origins and a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Johanson recently discussed the significance of Lucy, the field of evolutionary study and his latest book, “Lucy’s Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins,” with TIME’s Lauren E. Bohn.

Speaking of Lucy’s importance to the scientific community and the world at large, Johanson explains that the fossil is a bridge between modern humans and our ancient ancestors, one that illustrates that upright walking is a human trait predating all others typically held to be human, such as tool-making. And while Lucy is still being contextualized by newer findings like the Dikika baby and the Hobbits of Indonesia, she remains a touchstone in the study of human origins.

Aside from being an evolutionary icon, Lucy is also something of an ambassador for human unity in Johanson’s estimation. He says that her story translates into a message of global resonance: “You are all my descendants and regardless of who we are, we are all, in fact today, Africans.”

In the interview, he also produces a fresh take on the age-old question of what it means to be human. According to Johanson, “What makes us human depends on what place on our evolutionary path we're talking about. If you go back 6 million years ago, what makes us human is that we were walking upright…2.6 million years ago, it's the fact that we're designing and making stone tools. And at 2 million years ago what makes us human is our large brains that are at least 2 ½ times the size of a chimp's. At 20,000 years ago, what makes us human is the ability to make beautiful cave art. It's all relational. And if you look at us today, I wonder if we are human.”





The Johanson interview appears on the TIME Health & Science site.

Article source:
TIME
Article:



http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1882969,00.html
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« Reply #26 on: June 04, 2009, 07:28:00 am »







                                  World Famous 'Lucy' Fossil Travels to New York City



                     Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia to open in Times Square






Houston, TX
(Vocus/PRWEB )
June 4, 2009

-- The icon of paleoanthropology--the famous 3.2 million-year-old hominid known as Lucy -- will travel to the world's most iconic landmark, New York's Times Square, for display from June 24 through Oct. 25, 2009.


 Recent scientific research conducted on Lucy illustrates that she still has stories to tell.
   
 Even though she lived more than 3 million years ago, Lucy continues to give us clues about what it means to be
a human. 
 
 Over the past decade, wondrous exhibitions traveling the United States have bypassed New York time and again simply because no venue existed to host them.   We are very excited about the opportunity to introduce   
 to the people of New York City because she evokes a strong response from everyone who sees her, and as such, she is the ultimate goodwill ambassador for Ethiopia
   
 Lucy not only validates Ethiopia's claim as the Cradle of Mankind, she also introduces viewers to the rich cultural heritage that has flourished in Ethiopia over the course of the last 3,000 years, and to the vibrant country that Ethiopia is today.   

"Recent scientific research conducted on Lucy illustrates that she still has stories to tell," said Dirk Van Tuerenhout, curator of anthropology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. "Even though she lived more than 3 million years ago, Lucy continues to give us clues about what it means to be a human."

With 40 percent of her skeleton intact, Lucy remains the oldest and most complete adult human ancestor retrieved from African soil. Other important paleoanthropological discoveries will also be represented including an overview of known fossils discovered in Africa, Asia and Europe which completes the current account of human evolution as it is known to scientists today, setting the stage for a more in-depth presentation of the importance of Ethiopia's fossil record.

Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia opens at Discovery Times Square Exposition™, a new state-of-the-art exhibition facility located in the former printing presses building of The New York Times at 226 West 44th Street. "Over the past decade, wondrous exhibitions traveling the United States have bypassed New York time and again simply because no venue existed to host them," said James Sanna, President and Executive Producer of Running Subway Productions. Discovery Times Square Exposition creates a world-class home in New York for great exhibitions that bring fascinating and engaging art and artifacts to light in dramatic immersive environments. We look forward to enriching New York's dynamic and unsurpassed cultural landscape."

More than 100 artifacts illuminate Ethiopia's rich heritage. See early stone tools found in Ethiopia; a wide selection of objects from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church such as illuminated manuscripts and processional crosses; a selection of Korans from the holy city of Harar, the fourth most important site in Islam; and the first coins minted by an indigenous African civilization. Paintings, musical instruments, implements of daily use, a scale model of the famous Church of St. George in Lalibela and more will also be on display.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to introduce "Lucy" to the people of New York City because she evokes a strong response from everyone who sees her, and as such, she is the ultimate goodwill ambassador for Ethiopia," said Joel A. Bartsch, president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. "Lucy not only validates Ethiopia's claim as the Cradle of Mankind, she also introduces viewers to the rich cultural heritage that has flourished in Ethiopia over the course of the last 3,000 years, and to the vibrant country that Ethiopia is today."

Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia is an international exhibition organized by The Houston Museum of Natural Science in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Exhibition Coordinating Committee. It is nationally underwritten by The Smith Foundation and Ethiopian Airlines.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science--one of the nation's most heavily attended museums--is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham IMAX® Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at One Hermann Circle Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.



Press Information:
Melodie Francis
(713) 639-4743

Public Information:
(713) 639-4629 or
www.hmns.org

# # #
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« Reply #27 on: December 17, 2009, 09:35:56 pm »

Fossil Skeleton From Africa Predates Lucy
[/b]

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published: October 1, 2009
Lucy, meet Ardi.

Ardi, short for Ardipithecus ramidus, is the newest fossil skeleton out of Africa to take its place in the gallery of human origins. At an age of 4.4 million years, it lived well before and was much more primitive than the famous 3.2-million-year-old Lucy, of the species Australopithecus afarensis.

Since finding fragments of the older hominid in 1992, an international team of scientists has been searching for more specimens and on Thursday presented a fairly complete skeleton and their first full analysis. By replacing Lucy as the earliest known skeleton from the human branch of the primate family tree, the scientists said, Ardi opened a window to “the early evolutionary steps that our ancestors took after we diverged from our common ancestor with chimpanzees.”

The older hominid was already so different from chimps that it suggested “no modern ape is a realistic proxy for characterizing early hominid evolution,” they wrote.

The Ardipithecus specimen, an adult female, probably stood four feet tall and weighed about 120 pounds, almost a foot taller and twice the weight of Lucy. Its brain was no larger than a modern chimp’s. It retained an agility for tree-climbing but already walked upright on two legs, a transforming innovation in hominids, though not as efficiently as Lucy’s kin.

Ardi’s feet had yet to develop the arch-like structure that came later with Lucy and on to humans. The hands were more like those of extinct apes. And its very long arms and short legs resembled the proportions of extinct apes, or even monkeys.

Tim D. White of the University of California, Berkeley, a leader of the team, said in an interview this week that the genus Ardipithecus appeared to resolve many uncertainties about “the initial stage of evolutionary adaptation” after the hominid lineage split from that of the chimpanzees. No fossil trace of the last common ancestor, which lived some time before six million years ago, according to genetic studies, has yet come to light.

The other two significant stages occurred with the rise of Australopithecus, which lived from about four million to one million years ago, and then the emergence of Homo, our own genus, before two million years ago. The ancestral relationship of Ardipithecus to Australopithecus has not been determined, but Lucy’s australopithecine kin are generally recognized as the ancestral group from which Homo evolved.

...continued
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« Reply #28 on: December 17, 2009, 09:39:03 pm »

...continued

Scientists not involved in the new research hailed its importance, placing the Ardi skeleton on a pedestal alongside notable figures of hominid evolution like Lucy and the 1.6-million-year-old Turkana Boy from Kenya, an almost complete specimen of Homo erectus with anatomy remarkably similar to modern Homo sapiens.

David Pilbeam, a professor of human evolution at Harvard University who had no role in the discovery, said in an e-mail message that the Ardi skeleton represented “a genus plausibly ancestral to Australopithecus” and began “to fill in the temporal and structural ‘space’ between the apelike common ancestor and Australopithecus.”

Andrew Hill, a paleoanthropologist at Yale University who was also not involved in the research, noted that Dr. White had kept “this skeleton in his closet for the last 15 years or so, but I think it has been worth the wait.” In some ways the specimen’s features are surprising, Dr. Hill added, “but it makes a very satisfactory animal for understanding the changes that have taken place along the human lineage.”

The first comprehensive reports describing the skeleton and related findings, the result of 17 years of study, are being published Friday in the journal Science. Eleven papers by 47 authors from 10 countries describe the analysis of more than 110 Ardipithecus specimens from a minimum of 36 different individuals, including Ardi.

The paleoanthropologists wrote in one of the articles that Ardipithecus was “so rife with anatomical surprises that no one could have imagined it without direct fossil evidence.”

A bounty of animal and plant material — “every seed, every piece of fossil wood, every scrap of bone,” Dr. White said — was gathered to set the scene of the cooler, more humid woodland habitat in which these hominids had lived.

This was one of the first surprises, said Giday WoldeGabriel, a geologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, because it upset the hypothesis that upright walking had evolved as an adaptation to life on grassy savanna.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/02/science/02fossil.html?_r=1&em

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