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Top Ten Dinosaur and Fossil Finds: Most Viewed of 2009

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Author Topic: Top Ten Dinosaur and Fossil Finds: Most Viewed of 2009  (Read 4234 times)
Tyrannosaurus Rex
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« Reply #45 on: December 28, 2009, 06:38:58 am »

Oldest Skeleton of Human Ancestor Found
Jamie Shreeve
Science editor, National Geographic magazine
October 1, 2009


Move over, Lucy. And kiss the missing link goodbye.

Scientists today announced the discovery of the oldest fossil skeleton of a human ancestor. The find reveals that our forebears underwent a previously unknown stage of evolution more than a million years before Lucy, the iconic early human ancestor specimen that walked the Earth 3.2 million years ago.

The centerpiece of a treasure trove of new fossils, the skeleton—assigned to a species called Ardipithecus ramidus—belonged to a small-brained, 110-pound (50-kilogram) female nicknamed "Ardi." (See pictures of Ardipithecus ramidus.)

The fossil puts to rest the notion, popular since Darwin's time, that a chimpanzee-like missing link—resembling something between humans and today's apes—would eventually be found at the root of the human family tree. Indeed, the new evidence suggests that the study of chimpanzee anatomy and behavior—long used to infer the nature of the earliest human ancestors—is largely irrelevant to understanding our beginnings.

Ardi instead shows an unexpected mix of advanced characteristics and of primitive traits seen in much older apes that were unlike chimps or gorillas (interactive: Ardi's key features). As such, the skeleton offers a window on what the last common ancestor of humans and living apes might have been like.
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