Discovery of Ardi suggests twin evolution path

The first major analysis of one of the earliest known hominids suggests that humans may not have evolved from apes.

An illustration shows a probable life appearance in anterior view of Ardipithecus ramidus ("Ardi").

The first major analysis of one of the earliest known hominids suggests that humans may not have evolved from apes.

One of the principal investigators, C. Owen Lovejoy, associate professor of biological anthropology at Kent State University in Ohio, said the research reveals that the reverse could be true: Apes might have evolved from the hominids that eventually evolved into humans.

“People often think we evolved from apes, but no, apes in many ways evolved from us,” Lovejoy said. “It has been a popular idea to think humans are modified chimpanzees. From studying Ardipithecus ramidus, or ‘Ardi,’ we learn that we cannot understand or model human evolution from chimps and gorillas.” (See artist’s renditions at right.)

The research is being published in a special edition of the journal Science.

An international team of 47 scientists for the first time thoroughly described Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominid that lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia.

The research consists of 11 detailed papers that describe the Ardipithecus fossils that include a partial skeleton of a female, nicknamed “Ardi.”

The last common ancestor shared by humans and chimpanzees is thought to have lived six or more million years ago. Though Ardipithecus is not itself this last common ancestor, it likely shared many of this ancestor’s characteristics.

For comparison, Ardipithecus is more than a million years older than the “Lucy” female partial skeleton of Australopithecus afarensis. Until the discovery of the new Ardipithecus remains, the fossil record contained scant evidence of other hominids older than Lucy.

Through an analysis of the skull, teeth, pelvis, hands, feet and other bones, the researchers have determined that Ardipithecus had a mix of “primitive” traits, shared with its predecessors, the primates of the Miocene epoch, and “derived” traits, which it shares exclusively with later hominids.

Because of its antiquity, Ardipithecus takes us closer to the still-elusive last common ancestor.

However, many of its traits do not appear in modern-day African apes. One surprising conclusion, therefore, is that it is likely that the African apes have evolved extensively since we shared that last common ancestor, which suggests that living chimpanzees and gorillas are poor models for the last common ancestor and for understanding our own evolution since that time.

Primary authors in the project include Lovejoy, who studied the skeletal remains below the neck and helped determine that Ardi could walk upright, but not as well as humans, and could climb trees, but not as proficiently as chimpanzees and other great apes.

Those results among others place Ardi as an important transitional hominid in the evolutionary journey that led to humans.

“It’s another step toward understanding human evolution and completing our understanding,” Lovejoy said. “Ultimately it says something about our place in the world.”

Just Posted

More than $25k raised for Red Deer firefighter who is recovering in hospital

‘I think the support he’s getting is because of the person he is’

Lacombe backs Blackfalds stormwater plan

Stormwater management plan will open up more land for development in Blackfalds

Two men facing charges in alleged abduction

RCMP issued alert for woman on Wednesday morning who was found safe later that day

Red Deer RCMP seek public assistance to identify suspect in indecent acts

Red Deer RCMP are looking for a man believed to be responsible… Continue reading

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

Leon Draisaitl has overtime winner as Edmonton Oilers down Boston Bruins 3-2

EDMONTON — Connor McDavid set up Leon Draisaitl for the overtime winner… Continue reading

Edmonton girl guide sells out of cookies in front of cannabis store on first day

EDMONTON — She’s being called one smart cookie. As people lined up… Continue reading

New vacuum needed: Calgary family adopts three bonded St. Bernard buddies

EDMONTON — Three adult St. Bernards who couldn’t be separated because they’re… Continue reading

Film with Fan Bingbing, Bruce Willis cancelled after tax case

BEIJING — The director of “Air Strike,” featuring Chinese actress Fan Bingbing,… Continue reading

Michael Buble shuts down rumours of retirement from music

LOS ANGELES — Michael Buble is shutting down rumours that he’s going… Continue reading

After Canada legalizes pot, industry eyes rest of the world

MONTREAL — Cam Battley is a top executive at one of Canada’s… Continue reading

Facebook’s election ‘war room’ takes aim at fake information

MENLO PARK, Calif. — In an otherwise innocuous part of Facebook’s expansive… Continue reading

Military to overhaul morale-boosting trips after review finds serious problems

OTTAWA — Canada’s top general is overhauling military morale-boosting tours after an… Continue reading

Most Read