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Fossil Primate Ardipithecus Ramidus Described (Finally) 369

Posted by timothy
from the moment-we've-all-been-waiting-for dept.
Omomyid writes "I wasn't actually aware that Dr. Tim White of UC Berkeley had been 'sitting' on A. ramidus but apparently he has (I remember the original flurry of interest back in the '90s when it was announced), but now Dr. White and others have assembled a nearly complete skeleton of the 4.4mya specimen and the descriptions being carried by the NY Times and the AP are intriguing. Ramidus is clearly differentiated from the other Great Apes and also more primitive than A. afarensis (Lucy), providing a nice linkage backwards to the last shared ancestor between humans and chimpanzees. According to the NY Times, a whole passel of papers will be published in tomorrow's Science magazine describing A. ramidus." Update — 10/01 at 22:05 GMT by SS: Reader John Hawks provided a link to his detailed blog post about Ardipithecus, which contains a ton of additional details not covered in the above articles.
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Fossil Primate Ardipithecus Ramidus Described (Finally)

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  • Re:Science (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Trahloc (842734) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:05PM (#29610179) Homepage
    We haven't evolved from modern monkeys but we do share a common ancestor ... or do you think we went straight from amino acids to dropping acid?
  • by Empiric (675968) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:08PM (#29610215)

    If a genetically-modified human were cloned today, would that clone be outside common ancestry?

    Would it be designed?

    Do we know this hasn't happened in the distant past?

  • Sex for food? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mangu (126918) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:26PM (#29610447)

    We became more social, whereas chimpanzees grew longer fingers and became capable of swinging through trees

    Another article [nationalgeographic.com] mentions that " Instead of fighting for access to females, a male Ardipithecus would supply a "targeted female" and her offspring with gathered foods and gain her sexual loyalty in return.
      To keep up his end of the deal, a male needed to have his hands free to carry home the food. Bipedalism may have been a poor way for Ardipithecus to get around, but through its contribution to the "sex for food" contract, it would have been an excellent way to bear more offspring. And in evolution, of course, more offspring is the name of the game"

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:53PM (#29610771)

    Ok, if you insist I not be flippant about the subject, so be it.

    What creationists don't understand is that science isn't about killing religion, science couldn't care less what the religious implications of its discoveries are. Science is about the quest for knowledge, and knowing that humanity didn't evolve naturally would be the most important piece of knowledge ever discovered. In short, if evidence existed that contradicted our current scientific beliefs, it is in every scientists interests to bring that evidence to the table; the risk might be large but the payoff is enormous.

    Unfortunately, the claim of an intelligent creator is difficult bordering on impossible to prove scientifically; it makes no predictions that can be tested, it happened so far in the past that there no remaining evidence to support it, and, unlike evolution, it is not an ongoing phenomonon.

  • Re:Science (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Steve Franklin (142698) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:59PM (#29610867) Homepage Journal

    I am reminded of the Star Trek TNG episode where these guys who looked like a cross between a lizard and a human refused to admit the obvious fact that they were descended from dinosaurs.

  • by AndersOSU (873247) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:02PM (#29610895)

    I don't know if you noticed, but brain matter doesn't fossilize particularly well.

    There's a correlation-is-not-causation problem with the Japanese/African IQ observation, the conclusion you're drawing is moderately racist.

    Finally, the field that looks at brain structures and tells us why or how we evolved them is about 90% speculation.

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:04PM (#29610921) Journal

    From what I have seen, you are too earnest and concerned about your karma to be trolling. So let me kindly point out some of the misconceptions others may have missed. Obviously, you get the point that nobody thinks we are descended from monkeys. That's been hammered home, yes? But above that, you seem to be laboring under the delusion that biological science consists of deciding which critters look like which other critters. While this used to be the case, back before we had better methods, we can now do genetic analysis and figure out much more accurately what is or was related to what.

    You also seem to be confused as the the concept of 'related.' If you and your sister are descended from the same point, say, your mother and father, are you related? Yes. Yes you are. We are not the descendants of monkeys, but we are still in the same family, so to speak. In fact, based on genetic evidence, even several million years after we split off from our common ancestor, we were still occasionally getting it on with them and making babies. It was discussed right here on Slashdot some time ago.

    I can't really tell you why this whole idea of common descent is interesting, either you find it so or you don't. I can tell you why it is interesting to other people, though. Science is a process that approaches, but never reaches the truth. We make theories, and we see what predictions those theories make. Then we look for evidence showing whether or not those predictions are true, Finally, if the evidence shows the predictions are not true, we modify our theories. For instance, we had to modify Newton's theory of gravity when its predictions about the orbit of Mercury proved false. That lead to the Einstein's theories of relativity. But we still use Newton's theories in day to day engineering, because they are simpler to calculate and give correct results outside of relativistic situations. The truth or falsehood of theories is irrelevant, the only relevant question in science is, does the theory make accurate predictions?

    How does this relate to the theory of evolution? Well, it is one piece of a giant puzzle. We have all of these pieces of evidence: fossils, DNA, carbon dating, and so on. They all fit together, forming a giant structure of factual support for the theory of evolution. If even one of these pieces did not fit, for instance, if we found a rabbit skeleton from the Jurassic period, then we would have to modify inconceivably large chunks of our current theories, not just evolution, but just about everything would need reevaluation.

    So here we have a new piece. Does it fit? I find that question interesting. Many other people do too.

  • Re:It bothers me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:09PM (#29611013) Journal

    I'm sure you can find some better reasons to be skeptical than what you list.

    Yes, but perhaps his real reasons for being skeptical will earn him a vicious mocking from others, and he wishes to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt without stating what his real issues are?

  • Re:Science (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:11PM (#29611029) Journal

    Man this sounds like an infinitely recursive loop.

    And not in a bad way. If you think about the computer simulations we're been able to create in the short existence of our computer systems, it's pretty clear that someone else could had created our whole world as a simulation. Computing power is quite infinite; we're making even more and more progress all the time. And if simulation theory would be correct, we cant possibly know what kind of systems are running us.

    (yeah it sounds matrix like.. but atleast it makes more sense than any religious/god crap anyway)

  • by hazem (472289) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:22PM (#29611165) Journal

    and it seems rather odd to me that we could've had a significant population of ancestors that failed to leave a fossil record.

    It's not really so odd. First, however, is the assumption that there is a significant population who didn't leave fossils. It's probably more likely that there are fossils and they just haven't been found. The Earth is big and only a small percentage of it has been searched for fossils.

    Then you have to consider that not all geologic structures and death conditions are conducive to fossil formation. Go out into a wild area today and count the number of animals you find. Then count the number of somewhat intact carcasses you find. You won't find many. So of the critters out there alive today, only a tiny percentage of them will end up as fossils in another few million years. On top of that, if the places humans like to live today were in similar conditions (near large sources of water, for example), there's a good chance that we've built over any fossils many times over.

    I suspect that if you made a Drake-Equation like formula for predicting finding fossils of any particular type that even if many fossils might exist, very few of them would be found. Consider that of the millions of A. afarensis that probably existed, we have only found a handful of their fossils.

    So sure, there is a gap, but there's a pretty reasonable explanation for that gap. Until we have exhausted such possibilities, and without startling evidence to the contrary, we can't seriously claim that the gap in the fossil record is caused by divine or extra-terrestrial intervention.

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:40PM (#29611381) Journal

    Not all birthers or deathers are white people.

    Please provide some sort of evidence to back up your wild assertion, a photo of a minority at a teabag party or town-hall rally clearly holding a birther/deather poster would do the trick.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:52PM (#29611523) Homepage

    Charming idea except that might sound good superficially but really doesn't fit the actual evidence. First, life forms of a nested hierarchy (you know, the whole tree of life thing?). Designers don't make nested hierarchies unless they are trying to be deceptive. Evolution does. Nested hierarchies don't form when someone is just copying useful parts of one model to another.

    A related problem is that humans and apes share some of the same mistakes in our DNA. For example, we share many of the same ERVs. ERVs are little snippets of DNA left over from retroviral infections of germ line cells. Essentially, retroviruses reproduce by taking their RNA and changing it back into DNA which is inserted into your chromosomes. Your cells look at that DNA and think it is instructions for them and so follow those instructions to produce new viruses. Sometimes this process goes wrong and the retroviral DNA is added in but it doesn't trigger. If the cell is a germ-line cell (i.e. a sperm or egg or a cell that makes sperms or eggs) then the DNA is permanently added to all later descendants. In such cases you get what is called an endogenous retrovirus (ERV). Humans share many ERV with the various ape species. Indeed, one gets a decent nested hierarchy just looking at the ERV data. This makes a lot sense if humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. It makes zero sense under a direct design hypothesis unless you have a nasty, deceitful designer. You are welcome to believe in a lying God, but I'd rather not.

  • Re:Science (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @07:03PM (#29612169)

    The intelligence is only a matter of degree

    I disagree; human intelligence seems to have reached a critical threshold when we learned to accumulate knowledge over time. Of all the species on earth, most continue in the same way (limited by the rate of genetic evolution) generation after generation. Not people. Our lifestyles have evolved radically in the last 5000 years. So much so, it is clear no species on earth ever reached the threshold before, because we are exploiting the planet like no species before. If highly advanced aliens from outer space came from earth today, I don't think they'd have any problem identifying humans as qualitatively different from the other species.

    Also, I think it is fundamentally wrong to say something is "only" a matter of degree - degree is what matters most! Posessing 1 cent is a lot more like being completely broke than being a millionaire. Life itself is "merely" a matter of degree; people are the gold standard (as far as we know); dogs are "very" alive, worms and plants are "slightly" alive, and fires, tornadoes, and virii are "arguably slightly" alive. Looking for "fundamental" distinctions is a fool's errand, because the cases at the boundaries are the least distinguished and least important.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @09:28PM (#29613105)

    Hey moron.
    No one EVER produced an original birth certificate for Obama.

    Hey moron.
    The language of the bill says that doctors will be evaluated in part based on their adherence to any living wills set up by the patient.
    The language of the bill says that doctors will be evaluated in based on adhering to standard accepted treatments.
    The language of the bill says that doctors will be evaluated positively for getting patients to establish said living wills.

    There are guidelines for what treatments are acceptable for which patients, and they do consider age, likelihood of success, and cost.

    Ergo, doctors will be incentivized to follow the government's guidelines for how to treat granny.

    Most people would not have a problem with existing guidelines, but the government has never, ever, done the right thing in the long run when given power.

    Couple that with the simple fact that we can NOT pay for all of the proposed health care, and you end up with people being killed off because of costs, due to what is apparently doctor's decision.

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