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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Walk Like a Man
19 January 2005 (All day)
The apelike Ardipithecus ramidus just got a stronger toehold on a branch of the human family tree thanks to a new fossil discovery that adds more evidence that the 4.4 million year-old creature walked upright.
Ever since paleoanthropologists found the first fossils of Ardipithecus ramidus in Ethiopia in 1992, researchers have wondered if this apelike creature walked upright--a traditional hallmark of the extended human family. Scientists initially identified A. ramidus as one of the earliest known hominids on the basis of features in its teeth. But a key question has been whether it walked upright like humans and their ancestors--or if it walked on all fours like apes.
In this week's issue of Nature, an international team of researchers led by archaeologist Sileshi Semaw of the CRAFT Stone Age Institute at the University of Indiana reports the discovery of nine new fossils of A. ramidus from Gona, Ethiopia. The team shows that a bit of toe bone recovered at the site curves in a manner that is diagnostic of upright walking.
The fossils from Gona are significant because they show that A. ramidus also lived about 100 kilometers from the Aramis fossil beds where the first fossils of the species were found. "Gona is the only additional picture we have of A. ramidus," says Semaw. As researchers study the animal and plant fossils associated with A. ramidus at Gona, they hope to find out whether this early hominid lived in woodlands like those at Aramis or was able to inhabit more diverse terrain.
Gona first gained fame as a site where the earliest known tools--dating back 2.5 million years--were found. Now, the team's work shows that the site had been a magnet for early members of the human family for millions of years before that, continuing almost to modern times.
This shows that Gona was "a hominid-bearing site whose potential is only beginning to be realized by fieldwork," says paleoanthropologist Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley.