Our Family Tree Just Got Another Branch

And she needs a shave

Move over, Lucy. And kiss the missing link goodbye.

Scientists today announced the discovery of the oldest fossil skeleton of a human ancestor. The find reveals that our forebears underwent a previously unknown stage of evolution more than a million years before Lucy, the iconic early human ancestor specimen that walked the Earth 3.2 million years ago.

The centerpiece of a treasure trove of new fossils, the skeleton—assigned to a species called Ardipithecus ramidus—belonged to a small-brained, 110-pound (50-kilogram) female nicknamed “Ardi.”

The fossil puts to rest the notion, popular since Darwin’s time, that a chimpanzee-like missing link—resembling something between humans and today’s apes—would eventually be found at the root of the human family tree. Indeed, the new evidence suggests that the study of chimpanzee anatomy and behavior—long used to infer the nature of the earliest human ancestors—is largely irrelevant to understanding our beginnings.

What’s really cool about this, aside from how awesomely cool a 4.4 million year old fossil is (which is pretty damned awesome), is that the scientists acted like…scientists. In spite of the “consensus” being that there was a missing link, when they were confronted with data that challenged that theory they changed the theory to fit the new data. Good for them, and us.

We have a new ancestor.

4 Responses to “Our Family Tree Just Got Another Branch”

  1. Skyler says:

    The scientists explicitly said that they don’t know if this is our ancester. They say it is just as likely another branch in evolution, as they are skeptical that the changes to Lucy could develop in so short a time.

  2. Mr. Bingley says:

    It makes it seem like there could have been a whole bunch of proto-huminoids stumbling about, doesn’t it? With many of them just dying off.

  3. Gary from Jersey says:

    Yeah. And global warming killed them all.

  4. JeffS says:

    Mr. B, there are loads of proto-huminoids stumbling around today. They’re easy to identify, most of ’em vote Democrat.

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