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New Fossil Sheds Light On Lucy's Family Tree 89

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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  • by interactive_civilian ( 205158 ) <mamoru&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @12:42AM (#32649556) Homepage Journal

    I'm not at a university. And, I can access PNAS from both work and school and download at will. Maybe the National Academy of Sciences hates Canada? ;)

  • by Alarindris ( 1253418 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @12:50AM (#32649596)
    Even better, call him Linus :)
  • Re:Full of crap (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:03AM (#32649664)

    "A great legend has grown up to plague both paleontologists and anthropologists. It is that one of; men can take a tooth or a small and broken piece of bone, gaze at it, and pass his hand over his forehead once or twice, and then take a sheet of paper and draw a picture of what the whole animal looked like as it tramped the Terriary terrain. If this were quite true, the anthropologists would make the F.B.I. look like a troop of Boy Scouts." William W. Howells, Harvard, Mankind So Far p138

  • Re:Biped (Score:5, Interesting)

    by radtea ( 464814 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @09:43AM (#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.

  • Re:Biped (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tisha_AH ( 600987 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @11:18AM (#32653680) Journal

    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. We only have the ability to look at a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the evolutionary diversity of the hominid family.

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