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Earth News Science

Fossil Primate Ardipithecus Ramidus Described (Finally) 369

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:4, Informative)

    by j00r0m4nc3r ( 959816 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:03PM (#29610163)
    Monkeys have come from somewhere too - maybe humans are just another race from the same point, not related to monkeys in any way.

    Well, humans come from apes, not monkeys.
  • Re:It bothers me (Score:0, Informative)

    by WiredNut ( 1287460 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:09PM (#29610231)
    Reports indicate that there are many bones from other specimens.... []
  • Re:It bothers me (Score:5, Informative)

    by mrisaacs ( 59875 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:12PM (#29610265)

    If you had read the article - you would know that there were pieces of a large number of individuals found.

    You can assume carbon testing was done, it's routine.

    There's also the issue of associated plant and animal material in the fossil layer - which tends to give credence to the find.

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:13PM (#29610275) Homepage Journal

    why is it so interesting to study where humans have come from

    How could you NOT be interested in knowing where humans came from?

    and why exactly monkeys?

    Because both the fossil record and DNA say that chimps are humans' closest relatives, with 96% identical DNA.

    intelligently and in other ways they're totally different

    The intelligence is only a matter of degree, and in many (perhaps more) ways that matter more than intelligence they are the same as us.

    Monkeys have come from somewhere too

    Monkeys and apes (including us; we are an ape species) have the same anscestors, for reasons mentioned above.

    I'm not trying to troll or anything

    If you are, you're doing a poor job of it.

  • Re:It bothers me (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:13PM (#29610279)
    From the article: "...describe the analysis of more than 110 Ardipithecus specimens from a minimum of 36 different individuals, including Ardi." And yes, the specimens were scanned with a CT scanner so that they could digitally reconstruct the skull.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:15PM (#29610297)
    That apes are not an inferior species but instead specialized in one direction and humans in another has been well understood by biologists since at least the 70's...the 1870's.
  • Re:Science (Score:4, Informative)

    by wurp ( 51446 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:31PM (#29610503) Homepage

    Well, humans come from apes, not monkeys.

    Well, humans and apes came from a common recent ancestor.

  • Ardipithecus FAQ (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Hawks ( 624818 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:37PM (#29610579)

    I have an FAQ up on my blog [].

    It gives some of the story behind the news, and delves into the anatomy and implications for hominin origins. I'll be updating it as the day goes on to add more information.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:42PM (#29610639) Journal

    Birthers are a group of clueless, angry white people who firmly believe President Obama was born outside the US. Deathers are a group, nearly identical in membership, that believes President Obama wants to enact 'death panels' that will deny needed health care to seniors. Most birthers are deathers, and vice versa. They also tend to believe that they either need to secede from the union, or stage a military coup, as the country has now become a communist dictatorship. Hope that helps.

  • Re:It bothers me (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:45PM (#29610693)
    Minor quibble: C-14 is good for dating materials up to 60,000 years old (half life is ~5730 years) so they might have used potassium-argon dating which is good for materials over 100,000 years old.
  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:55PM (#29610815) Homepage
    It might be fun to say that humans come from apes not monkeys but the content of that statement is pretty low. Humans are apes. We share a common ancestor with the other great apes which looked pretty ape-like. But before that apes and monkeys share common ancestors that if one looked at today one would call a monkey based on appearance. So saying that we're descended from apes not monkeys is a) nitpicky and b) not completely accurate anyways.
  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:15PM (#29611073) Journal

    Except that that is not how the evidence points. As a couple of scientists I've talked to have pointed out, the real destruction of your theory isn't genetics itself, it's developmental biology. If all organisms were, as you said, simply examples of copy and paste, why on Earth would, during developmental, would fetal snakes have signals that basically turned off the leg producing genes? Those genes are still there, still pretty close to identical to the genes found in the closest relatives to snakes that do have legs.

    In fact, one of the chief arguments against life being engineered, that common genes being an example of procedural code being moved around like it was some sort of biological glibc is that everything about development is made up of hacks of this kind. Whether it's developmental hacks that shut down instructions to grow legs, to the very nature of many organisms physiology (such as a certain bipedal species with spines and knees only halfway adapted to full time upright walking) that would indicate that if your theory is right, the guy that made life is outrageously incompetent or malicious to the extreme.

    Besides, it isn't just a matter of some similar genes. It is the differences in genes that are often key as to relatedness. Chimps and humans have a high degree of similarity, but it isn't one-to-one for many genes. Over time the two species have diverged, which means that even the same genes aren't always identical. These differences, particularly in mtDNA, can actually be used as molecular clocks to make estimates as to when the two species diverged.

    In short, the evidence does not support your point of view. That view was long ago falsified. We are not the products of copy-and-pastes, but the products of evolutionary forces that work on populations over long stretches of time.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:26PM (#29611217) Journal

    Part of the problem is that you're not really explaining yourself. What do you mean here? Do you mean altering of existing genes (1)? Do you mean creating completely new and novel genes (2)? Do you mean inserting kelp genes into humans (3)?

    In the first example, that's pretty much an artificial form of normal genetic changes. The second example would be pretty unique, but still, the bulk of the new organism would definitely be human (or whatever species). The third example is very rare in more complex organisms, but horizontal gene transfer can occur here as well. Some part of our genome is, in fact, the product of viral infections (endo-retroviral insertions), which means that nature has already given us examples of my third type; genes that come from completely different lineages.

    Now maybe you would have something of a point if we completely constructed an organism from artificial genes, or maybe constructed an organism from an entirely different replication chemistry. In that case, yes, it would be an example of wholly different tree of life. I would argue if its more a spare parts sort of an affair, where they construct a new genome from genes found in existing lineages, while it gets complicated, at its root, it still fits within the tree of life, just at multiple points. But then again, that would apply to any form of horizontal gene transfer. I've listed one pathway; ERVs, prokaryotes like bacteria often move genes back and forth, sometimes between very distantly related lineages.

  • by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:27PM (#29611243)

    >as the country has now become a communist dictatorship

    You pretty well nailed it with your definition. However, you left out the part where we are not only a communist dictatorship, but Obama is also the reincarnation of Hitler.

  • Re:Science (Score:3, Informative)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:32PM (#29611291) Journal
    The appendix is a storage area for the bacteria that help you digest your food. If you get diarrhea and lose all your digestive flora, they can be repopulated from the appendix.
  • Re:Science (Score:4, Informative)

    by khayman80 ( 824400 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:36PM (#29611337) Homepage Journal
    I've discussed [] this issue repeatedly, and always point out that your idea isn't testable. Yes, maybe God created all life. Yes, maybe He created the Earth (and our memories) 30 seconds ago. But since neither of these notions (or yours) can be tested, they're not competing with evolution because evolution can be tested. For instance, finding a chimp fossil in the Precambrian or a 1950s discovery that all species used different DNA bases. That's what makes evolution a science, while creationism is a religion.
  • by Colin Douglas Howell ( 670559 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:41PM (#29611399)
    ...thanks to one abbreviation too many. It talks about "A. ramidus" (Ardipithecus ramidus []) and then immediately jumps to mentioning "A. afarensis". If you didn't already know what "A. afarensis" was, you might assume that it's another species within genus Ardipithecus, but that second "A." stands for a separate genus, Australopithecus [].
  • Re:Science (Score:5, Informative)

    by skine ( 1524819 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:48PM (#29611473)

    Humans and apes come from a common recent ancestor in the same way that Great Danes and dogs came from a common recent ancestor.

    That is to say that humans are apes.

    Apes are simply members of the superfamily Hominoidea, parvorder Catarrhini, order Primates, class Mammalia, phylum Chordata, kingdom Animalia.

    Even more specific, humans are Great Apes (please ignore the narcissism), or members of the family Hominidae, which is restricted to humans, chimps, bonobos, bili apes, gorillas and orangutans.

    Humans have:
    superfamily Hominoidea, family Hominidae, subfamily Homininae, tribe Hominini, genus Homo.
    Chimps, Bonobos, and Bili apes have:
    superfamily Hominoidea, family Hominidae, subfamily Homininae, tribe Hominini, genus Pan.
    Gorillas have:
    superfamily Hominoidea, family Hominidae, subfamily Homininae, tribe Gorillini, genus Gorilla.
    Orangutans have:
    superfamily Hominoidea, family Hominidae, subfamily Ponginae, genus Pongo.

  • by PalmKiller ( 174161 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @05:56PM (#29611557) Homepage
    Dobzhansky himself spoke of God as creating through evolution, and was a religious man who believed in the creator and hence creationism. He believed he did it through evolution entirely, and I believe he used a combination of creation and evolution. So I don't understand what you are getting at.... I did not say evolution was disproved completely, I should have just said Darwinism as a whole is flawed I suppose.
  • Re:Science (Score:5, Informative)

    by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @06:38PM (#29611941) Journal

    "So, yes, chimps certainly must have evolved somewhat, but not as much as humans"

    I would contend that they are equally as evolved as humans. They simply evolved in a different way.

    Simply because they didn't evolve to be more akin to humans doesn't make them less evolved.

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bowling Moses ( 591924 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @07:02PM (#29612147) Journal
    The human tailbone is most certainly vestigial. Vestigial does not mean useless; it means that it once had a given function (external tail in this case) but no longer performs that function, but does not mean that it doesn't perform a different function. In humans, our coccyx is usually comprised of 3-5 vertebrae, which are usually fused into two or three segments. Not all function in muscle attachment, as is unsurprising given the variability in the structure. People have been born with nine calcified bones in the coccyx (plus cartilaginous structures), and external tails complete with articulating vertebrae (five's the record as far as I know) have been reported in the medical literature. People have also been born without a coccyx at all, although like external tails this is rare. Removal of the coccyx is called a coccygectomy (say that to your five year old!) and can be done on the whole or just a part of the structure with little or no side effects.
  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gma i l .com> on Thursday October 01, 2009 @09:55PM (#29613221) Journal
    Flat Earthers are quite real. []

    For your entertainment: []
  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @11:21PM (#29613619) Homepage Journal

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin