Thursday, October 08, 2009

More on Ardipithecus ramidus

The NYT has a killer story by John Noble Wilford on the new Ardipithecus find (yes, I know, it is NYT but it was too good to pass up) with an associated graphic. It gives one an idea of just how transitional this find really is:

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.
Here is the accompanying graphic, from the NYT.

Every so often, a find comes around and galvanizes the scientific world. This is one such find. A. afarensis is a good case for a transitional form. Ardipithecus ramidus is so much more. It also shows, in true evolutionary fashion, that the transition to bipedalism took place over a considerable period of time and happened in mosaic fashion.

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  1. This certainly gets more interesting as time goes by!

    One thing I'm completely out of my depth on: many times over the years I have heard people who accept evolution complain loudly when a creationists says that we descended from apes (I have at times parroted this myself). "No, humans and apes have a common ancestor. We descended from ape-like ancestors, not apes." Do they just mean "modern apes" or is "ape" a generic enough classification that this criticism is essentially much ado about nothing?

    I ask because this NYT article says things like, "The hands were more like those of extinct apes." Are they being sloppy, or is this completely acceptable terminology?

  2. Steve, I have contacted you directly and responded. I tried doing it within the confines of this space and discovered that google/blogger only had a 4096 character limit. Let me know if it helps. I adapted it from one of my lectures.

  3. BTW, I have never seen a mail server treat HTML as malicious code. That's a new one.