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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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  • by Aurisor (932566) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @02:56PM (#29610079) Homepage

    Now, as you can clearly see, there are TWO gaps in the fossil record, where before there was only one!

    Nice try, science! /s

    • by syousef (465911) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:53PM (#29610763) Journal

      Now, as you can clearly see, there are TWO gaps in the fossil record, where before there was only one!

      Don't fret. Your parents were found yesterday.

  • by Eevee (535658) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @02:57PM (#29610085)
    Why rush? After 4.4 million years, what's a decade or two?
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:01PM (#29610133) Homepage Journal

    Wow, I saw her walking down Ash street the other night. I didn't know they had crack 4.4 million years ago!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Some people have no sense of humor. Troll? I guess the moderator must be a crack smoker, otherwise how would that offend him?

  • 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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RelliK (4466)

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

      nope.

      Would it be designed?

      not any more than a naturally occurring sequence of mutations

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

      The burden of proof is on you to show that it did.

      • by Empiric (675968)
        nope.

        Interesting. I thought words meant what they mean, like "ancestry" denoting biological descent.

        not any more than a naturally occurring sequence of mutations

        Well, self-evidently false. See the part about "words meaning what they mean".

        The burden of proof is on you to show that it did.

        I was hoping to hear an answer on more of a philosophy or philosophy of science level, rather than on Judge Judy fan level.

        But thanks!
        • by spun (1352)

          It simply does not matter whether a genetic change was brought about by human manipulation or random chance. A change in the genome is a change in the genome. You are still starting with a genome, right? There's your common ancestor. Was the genome designed? No. Were the changes designed? Yes. Is the resulting organism designed? Surely with our level of technology, not enough to even register.

          I don't mean to be a dick, I'm really trying to be polite, but your questions simply do not merit a philosophical or

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Knara (9377)

          I was hoping to hear an answer on more of a philosophy or philosophy of science level, rather than on Judge Judy fan level.

          Your query was on the "how do we know that intangible pink unicorns don't run the universe?" level. Unless there's evidence that would indicate such a thing happened, it's not worth thinking about in a *scientific* way.

          If you wanna think about it while toking up, be my guest.

    • What if there's no such thing as gravity, and we're all just held down by the FSM's noodly appendage?
      What if the world were created last Thursday, complete with us and all our memories?
      What if the entire universe is just a figment of my (deranged) imagination?

      See, hypotheticals are fun!

      In all seriousness though, assuming that someone/something reached down and tweaked our DNA, then left the solar system leaving no other evidence behind takes a pretty big leap. Especially when we have no reason to think tha

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

      No, because it would still be human. Many species of prokaryotes swap genes all the times, sometimes with other Prokaryotes of much different lineages. Even in eukaryotes, horizontal gene transfer can happen (very often due to retroviral infections, which can in fact act as a gateway for genes from different groups to get transplanted).

      Would it be designed?

      In your example, yes.

      Do we know this hasn't happened in

      • by Empiric (675968)
        No, because it would still be human. Many species of prokaryotes swap genes all the times, sometimes with other Prokaryotes of much different lineages. Even in eukaryotes, horizontal gene transfer can happen (very often due to retroviral infections, which can in fact act as a gateway for genes from different groups to get transplanted).

        Given this, care to venture to offer a precise working definition of "common ancestry"? If it does not mean "reproductive descent" (which, technically, I agree with), and
        • Clones are hardly unknown in the biological world. Many species of prokaryotes are clones (that is, the daughter organism is nearly identical to the mother, and there is no recombination involved).

          I know what you and the parent are trying to say, that if we insert or modify the genetic makeup of some cloned individual, that somehow it is "parentless" and thus beyond common descent. But that's not the case, not unless you made an individual up many different genetic sources. Still, if this is a modified c

          • by Empiric (675968)
            But that's not the case, not unless you made an individual up many different genetic sources.

            And if I did? :)

            Technologically, eventually, it's going to happen. Eventually, we'll synthesize the whole DNA custom to our desires. Will "common ancestry" then no longer be true? If not, what event will cause it to no longer be true, and how will we know?

            Not to harp too much on this point, but I find this edge-case fascinating. Rather like the question of if you replaced every neuron in your brain with
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bowling Moses (591924)
      "If a genetically-modified human were cloned today, would that clone be outside common ancestry?"

      There are limits to what we know how to do. We've figured out how to do mammalian cloning (with some caveats and high inefficiency; Dolly the sheep for example). We could, if we expended sufficient effort, take chromosomes from different people and probably produce a viable clone from that, but the ancestry could be traced: It wouldn't be mom and pop, but mom(s) and dad(s). We could get a bit more exotic
  • Ewww (Score:2, Troll)

    by SnarfQuest (469614)

    Dr. Tim White of UC Berkeley had been 'sitting' on A. ramidus
    Is this something like Clinton wanting to "date" an Aztec mummy?

  • Ardipithecus FAQ (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Hawks (624818) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @03:37PM (#29610579)

    I have an FAQ up on my blog [johnhawks.net].

    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 Colin Douglas Howell (670559) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @04:41PM (#29611399)
    ...thanks to one abbreviation too many. It talks about "A. ramidus" (Ardipithecus ramidus [wikipedia.org]) 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 [wikipedia.org].

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