post Ardi: Man-ape Fossil

October 1st, 2009

Filed under: History Corner — Lissan Magazine @ 20:23

Human evolution just got a million years older: Man-ape fossil skeleton is closest thing yet to ‘missing link’
By David Derbyshire

She was just 4ft tall and weighed in at less than 110lbs when she roamed the forests 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia.

Small in stature, but hugely significant in scientific terms the skeleton is humankind’s oldest ancestor by almost a million years.

The ancient remains - nicknamed ‘Ardi’ by scientists - could be the closest thing yet to the mythical ‘missing link’.

Her discovery, reported in detail for the first time today, sheds new light on a crucial period of human evolution when our ancestors were leaving the trees and learning to walk upright.

DPA/ Drawing: J.H. Matternes

‘This is one of the most important discoveries for the study of human evolution,’ said Dr David Pilbeam, curator of palaeoanthropology at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

‘It is relatively complete in that it preserves head, hands, feet, and some critical parts in between.’

Ardi - short for Ardipithecus ramidus or ‘root of the ground ape’ -  was more man-ape than ape-man.

She lived a million years before the famous Lucy, the previous earliest skeleton of a human ancestor.

According to fossil hunters, the discovery of Ardi challenges the common wisdom about the last common ancestor of people and chimps.

‘This is not that common ancestor, but it’s the closest we have ever been able to come,’ said Dr Tim White, director of the Human Evolution Research Centre at the University of California, Berkeley who reports the discovery today in Science.

The first fossilised and crushed bones of Ardi were found in 1992 in Ethiopia’s Afar Rift. But it has taken an international team of 47 scientists 17 years to piece together, analyse and describe the remains in detail.

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source: mailonline

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