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Science

New Fossil Sheds Light On Lucy's Family Tree 89

Posted by kdawson
from the desi-arnaz-moment dept.
I_am_sci_guy writes "A new fossil of an older, and presumably male, specimen of the same species as the famed Lucy indicates that A. afarensis may have walked and moved more like humans than was currently believed. The features of the unusually complete skeleton 'denote a nearly humanlike gait and ground-based lifestyle,' according to anthropologist Yohannes Haile-Selassie and his team, who found the specimen they call 'Big Man' and published preliminary results online today at PNAS (abstract; full text requires subscription). The article includes plenty of viewpoints dissenting from the conclusion that A. afarensis walked, and possibly ran, like modern humans do."
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New Fossil Sheds Light On Lucy's Family Tree

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  • In a stunning announcement The Creation Institute of America has moved that these two have actually been misnamed and are in fact Adam and Eve or bitch as head creationist Mike Comburg said in their press release earlier today. They are now demanding that school districts teach both sides of the name argument.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by shriphani (1174497)
      Creationists are on a mission to troll their kids.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by SnarfQuest (469614)

      Couldn't be Adam and Eve. Dick Clark said he knew Adam and Eve, and these two look nothing like them. Abe Vigota agrees.

  • by interactive_civilian (205158) <{mamoru} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday June 21, 2010 @11:03PM (#32649354) Homepage Journal

    Ummm... the full text of the PNAS article does NOT require a subscription. Just click the "Full Text (PDF) [pnas.org]" link.

    Or at least, I have access using no logins and accessing via a standard ISP in Thailand. :-/

  • by PapayaSF (721268) on Monday June 21, 2010 @11:24PM (#32649468) Journal
    They find the male counterpart of Lucy, and nickname him "Big Man"? It would have been much more fun to name him "Ricky."
  • Biped (Score:5, Funny)

    by fermion (181285) on Monday June 21, 2010 @11:50PM (#32649590) Homepage Journal
    From the nature write up it appears that this, along with older fossils, seems to push back bipedal Hominini to about 3.5 millions year. Almost 2 meters tall, a pelvis that seems modern, and a long tibia. I am not so sure why the scientists are arguing about how these creatures walked, the agreement on a bipedal Lucy and relatives seems pretty impressive, and meant that our ancestors could run when they hunt the might dinosaur.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ByteSlicer (735276)

      and meant that our ancestors could run when they hunt the might dinosaur.

      In that case it also meant they could time-travel more than 60 million years into the past...

    • Almost 2 meters tall

      TFA says 5'6" max. That's nowhere near 2 metres.

    • by skorch (906936)

      our ancestors could run when they hunt the might dinosaur

      You're about 62 million years off putting these or pretty much any other hominid species alongside real dinosaurs. Seriously, it might sound cool but it makes no sense, and the public believing stuff just because it sounds cool has lead to a lot of trouble in this field.

      • by Kozz (7764)

        our ancestors could run when they hunt the might dinosaur

        You're about 62 million years off putting these or pretty much any other hominid species alongside real dinosaurs. Seriously, it might sound cool but it makes no sense, and the public believing stuff just because it sounds cool has lead to a lot of trouble in this field.

        YHBT, HAND.

        p.s. wtf is up with slashdot comment boxes? Where's my "quote parent" button? Why change the design?

        • Where's my "quote parent" button? Why change the design?

          Quote parent button? I've never seen a quote parent button on Slashdot.
      • Unforutnately, it would appear your humor gland is broken.

        I am not so sure why the scientists are arguing about how these creatures walked, the agreement on a bipedal Lucy and relatives seems pretty impressive, and meant that our ancestors could run when they hunt the might dinosaur.

        ou're about 62 million years off putting these or pretty much any other hominid species alongside real dinosaurs.

    • Re:Biped (Score:5, Interesting)

      by radtea (464814) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:43AM (#32652362)

      I am not so sure why the scientists are arguing about how these creatures walked,

      /. seems even more borken today than usual, but I'll try responding to this anyway (I'm assuming the dino joke was a joke...)

      It's been pretty clear for quite a while now that upright bipedalism was an early feature in human evolution, where "quite a while" means "at least 20 years". But as the persistence of Creationism after a century of obvious falsity suggests, humans are deeply wedded to myths about our origins, and within the paleoanthropological community as well as popular culture there has been a big effort to build myths around human evolution.

      Perhaps the largest of those myths is "man made tools and tools made man": the idea that once tool-use, including fire, became part of proto-human life we were on a slippery evolutionary slope to big brains. Upright bipedalism in this myth is necessary to free our hands to work with and carry tools.

      This myth is comforting to the weak-minded because it seems to suggest that evolution "toward" modern humans was a quasi-purposive process driven by the reproductive benefits of improved tool-making and tool-use [*].

      Early bipedalism blows this myth out of the water. If proto-humans were upright bipedal creatures so early on, those traits clearly had nothing much to do with tool use, and the certain fact that the evolution of our large, opera-writing, space-ship-building brains is nothing but the consequence of a huge series of unrelated accidents.

      We happened to have a body plan that resulted in us being able to do something more useful than tell dirty jokes after run-away sexual selection blew our brain out into its current magnificent proportions. Once that entirely accidental potential was realized, about 50,000 years ago, there has likely been some evolutionary pressure toward more effective tool use and whatnot, up until the last 200 years, anyway.

      But the process that got us here wasn't some million-year ramp we climbed. It was a fun-house ride that dumped us out at the end with a brain that could reflect on itself, and eventually ask how it got here, and learn by carefully examining the world what the answers were... all while some insane nutjobs were screaming nonsense and threatening violence if we instead didn't listen to their fantasic gibberish.

      Early upright bipedalism challenges all the myths, and people hate that.

      [*] Yeah, there's a joke in there, and since your brain was evolved specifically to entertain and be entertained by members of the opposite sex, it's one that pretty much everyone here is aware of since our brains were all the result of the same process.

      • Perhaps the largest of those myths is "man made tools and tools made man": the idea that once tool-use, including fire, became part of proto-human life we were on a slippery evolutionary slope to big brains.

        I've not heard it put that way, but I think the man/tool relationship holds, at least in part. There can be little doubt that using tools enhances survival, so those clever enough to use tools would have an edge over those not clever enough to do so. It also follows that those clever enough to improv
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Perhaps the largest of those myths is "man made tools and tools made man": the idea that once tool-use, including fire, became part of proto-human life we were on a slippery evolutionary slope to big brains. Upright bipedalism in this myth is necessary to free our hands to work with and carry tools.

        We happened to have a body plan that resulted in us being able to do something more useful than tell dirty jokes after run-away sexual selection blew our brain out into its current magnificent proportions. Once t

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tisha_AH (600987)

      Looking at the small sampling of fossils I find it hard to accept that they can draw so many conclusions.

      Yes, you could definitely say that it is hominidae, most likely a Australopithecus but to infer that it is bipedal with a human-like gait is a stretch.

      'pithecus was around for a few million years and a great deal of evolutionary changes were occurring over that span of time. In the late Pleistocene look at how much 'homo changed with the extinction of habilis, neanderthalensis, floresiensis and denisova.

  • PNAS? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Spykk (823586)
    So I am supposed to read the results of "Big Man" over at PNAS? Why does this summary look like the contents of my spam folder?
  • I guess they found Helo???

  • The article includes plenty of viewpoints dissenting from the conclusion that A. afarensis walked, and possibly ran, like modern humans do.

    Is anyone else as deeply offended by this as me? I, as a modern human, haven never, ever, in my life run, and am offended that I am associated with these prehistoric brutes.

    Oh the humanity!
  • I'm not sure if I'm the only one who feels this way, but it seems to me that Lucy is no more relevant to science than the chimp down at the local zoo. The only non-chimp aspect of her was the knee, which was found a whole mile and a half away from the rest of her and in a different rock layer, with nothing suggesting that it was actually her knee. They need to find something that says she actually was something other than pure chimp, rather than just speculating. As it is, it isn't enough to convince me

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