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Another Branch of Human Ancestors Reported
NY Times ^ | March 5, 2004 | JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

Posted on 03/05/2004 3:30:34 AM PST by Pharmboy

Another species has been added to the family tree of early human ancestors — and to controversies over how straight or tangled were the branches of that tree.

Long before Homo erectus, Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy, more than three million years ago) and several other distant kin, scientists are reporting today, there lived a primitive hominid species in what is now Ethiopia about 5.5 million to 5.8 million years ago.

That would make the newly recognizied species one of the earliest known human ancestors, perhaps one of the first to emerge after the chimpanzee and human lineages diverged from a common ancestor some six million to eight million years ago.

The timing of the fateful split has been determined by molecular biological research, and in recent years fossil hunters have found traces of what those earliest hominids, human ancestors and their close relatives, might have been like.

When the first fossil bones and teeth of this hominid were described three years ago, paleoanthropologists tentatively identified it as a more apelike subspecies that they named Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba. The original ramidus species was found in 1994 in 4.4-million-year-old sediments, also in Ethiopia.

But with more discoveries and a closer study, especially of the teeth, the scientists decided that the kadabba fossils from five individuals were distinctive enough to qualify as a separate species, Ardipithecus kadabba. In that case, the scientists added, kadabba was not a subspecies, but the likely direct ancestor of ramidus. But there were too few skeletal bones yet to learn much about other aspects of kadabba.

The description and interpretation of the new hominid species appear today in the journal Science. The authors of the report are Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Dr. Gen Suwa of the University of Tokyo and Dr. Tim D. White of the University of California, Berkeley.

The kadabba fossils were found in the Middle Awash valley about 180 miles northeast of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. These are arid badlands now, but in the time of the early hominids the land was wooded and more hospitable.

Dr. Haile-Selassie said the shapes and wear patterns of six teeth in particular were "significant in understanding how the dentition evolved from an apelike common ancestor into the earliest hominids." They were also critical, he said, in differentiating the earlier and later species of the genus Ardipithecus.

Other scientists familiar with the research, but not involved in it, said they agreed or were at least inclined to agree with the authors' designation of a separate species for the fossils. But they were not so sure about the authors' proposal that the fossils were so similar to those of two other recently discovered early species that all three species might have actually belonged to a single genus of closely related hominids.

The other two hominid species are Sahelanthropus tchadensis, found in Chad and thought to be six million to seven million years old, and Orrorin tugenensis, a six-million-year-old specimen from Kenya. The two are primitive apelike creatures not much bigger than a modern chimp. Although the analysis of these remains is not complete, and still subject to debate, each has been classified as a separate genus and species.

In their report on kadabba, Dr. Haile-Selassie and his colleagues concluded, "Given the limited data currently available, it is possible that all of these remains represent specific or subspecific variation within a single genus."

Dr. White, one of the most experienced paleoanthropologists, emphasized this point in a telephone interview. "These earliest hominids are all very, very similar," he said. "When you look at these three snapshots we have, we are struck by the great biological similarity, not by pronounced differences, not by great lineage diversity."

But in an accompanying commentary in the journal, Dr. David R. Begun, a paleontologist at the University of Toronto, questioned this interpretation. He said it was unlikely that all three of the early hominids belonged to a single genus, noting instead that the three exhibited evidence of striking diversity.

Dr. Begun conceded that "the level of uncertainty in the available direct evidence at this time renders irreconcilable differences of opinion inevitable."

The differences, broadly speaking, take the form of two images of what the hominid family tree looks like — a ladder or a bush. A growing number of scientists, finding multiple species of hominids that overlapped in time, contend that in response to new or changed circumstances hominids evolved along many diverse lines — a bush with many branches.

Dr. Begun, in a telephone interview, emphasized that he was not disagreeing with the designation of the new species, but was "merely presenting an alternative" to the single-genus interpretation.

"The material is so fragmentary," he said, "that we really can't know, and so our differences often are a reflection of different philosophies and experience in research."

Dr. Alan Walker, an anatomist at Pennsylvania State University who specializes in hominid research but was not involved in the kadabba analysis, said that too few fossils had been discovered to justify either interpretation. He noted that it was easy to be misled by variations that are normal within the fossil collections of any single species.

"People who believe in a bushy family tree will look for bushiness in their fossils, and those who don't won't," Dr. Walker said in an interview. "We are generalizing far too much, with not very many fossils spread over a long period of time."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: africa; anthropology; archaeology; ardipithecus; ardipithecusramidus; crevolist; fossils; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; humanevolution
"We are generalizing far too much, with not very many fossils spread over a long period of time."

The voice of reason...

1 posted on 03/05/2004 3:30:34 AM PST by Pharmboy
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To: PatrickHenry; thefactor
Ping
2 posted on 03/05/2004 3:31:09 AM PST by Pharmboy (History's greatest agent for freedom: The US Armed Forces)
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To: *crevo_list; VadeRetro; jennyp; Junior; longshadow; RadioAstronomer; Physicist; LogicWings; ...
PING. [This ping list is for the evolution side of evolution threads, and sometimes for other science topics. FReepmail me to be added or dropped.]
3 posted on 03/05/2004 3:35:48 AM PST by PatrickHenry (A compassionate evolutionist.)
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To: Pharmboy
The Lumpers Vs. The Splitters. Who needs the WWF? :)
4 posted on 03/05/2004 4:14:28 AM PST by mewzilla
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To: PatrickHenry; longshadow; VadeRetro
"We are generalizing far too much, with not very many fossils spread over a long period of time."

A prediction: sometime in the next five or ten years, we'll all be looking back to find the context of this line, due to the fact that some quote miner has decided to add Dr. Walker to the "list" of scientists who disagree with the entire theory of evolution.

5 posted on 03/05/2004 4:40:28 AM PST by general_re (Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. - Tacitus)
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To: Pharmboy
The extra chromosome wing of the Democrat Party?? :)
6 posted on 03/05/2004 5:52:13 AM PST by Recovering_Democrat (I'm so glad to no longer be associated with the Party of Dependence on Government!)
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To: Pharmboy
Notice how they never show you a picture, nor give you a physical description, of how much "evidence" they are analyzing? That's because it's probably less than a handful of fragments - and they realize that if the general public understood just how much guessing these "scientists" do in forming these anti-creationism theories, they would get laughed out of the convention.
7 posted on 03/05/2004 5:55:15 AM PST by Bronco_Buster_FweetHyagh
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To: Pharmboy
Here is the ancestor of the Republican:


8 posted on 03/05/2004 5:55:16 AM PST by from occupied ga (Your government is your most dangerous enemy, and Bush is no conservative)
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To: general_re
It's for the Lord, you know.
9 posted on 03/05/2004 5:57:22 AM PST by VadeRetro
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To: general_re
Predicting that creationists will attempt to discredit science by quoting out of context? That's a tautaulogy, not a prediction.

I predict that we will be asked once more, where are the the intermediates.
10 posted on 03/05/2004 7:02:50 AM PST by js1138
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To: js1138
What can I say? The tea leaves never fail, even if that's only because they concentrate entirely on the obvious ;)
11 posted on 03/05/2004 7:08:16 AM PST by general_re (The doors to Heaven and Hell are adjacent and identical... - Nikos Kazantzakis)
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To: Bronco_Buster_FweetHyagh
"Notice how they never show you a picture, nor give you a physical description, of how much "evidence" they are analyzing?"

I do notice that your lack of curiosity led you to make that statement without googling, just for the sake of promulgating the idea that there is a big C O N spiracy.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1434099.stm


12 posted on 03/05/2004 7:19:56 AM PST by adam_az (Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting weftists.)
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To: thegreatprion
bump@!
13 posted on 03/05/2004 7:28:37 AM PST by adam_az (Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting weftists.)
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To: Pharmboy
Gramps!
14 posted on 03/05/2004 7:32:13 AM PST by balrog666 (Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.)
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To: adam_az
HA! a few tiny bone fragments... see, these guys don't know nothin. I want a QuickTime movie of this so called hominid precursor in full color, and only then might I believe it!

NY Times article, Berkeley professor, a guy nameed Dr. Haile-Selassie (Rastafarian, no doubt, surely anti-Christian)... obviously a conspiracy! Heavens.

/creationist mode.
15 posted on 03/05/2004 8:22:29 AM PST by whattajoke
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To: from occupied ga
... and here is a partial DNA-sequence of the ancestor of the Democrats
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:80/entrez/viewer.fcgi?db=nucleotide&val=555870
16 posted on 03/05/2004 8:33:39 AM PST by AdmSmith
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To: AdmSmith
LOL - way too far up the evolutionary chain.
17 posted on 03/05/2004 8:43:35 AM PST by from occupied ga (Your government is your most dangerous enemy, and Bush is no conservative)
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To: Pharmboy
Maybe it was a failed attempt to evolve. Perhaps it was Australopithecus Jihadicus....
18 posted on 03/05/2004 10:16:54 AM PST by sheik yerbouty
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To: adam_az
Heh that's less than a handful of bones, like I figured.
19 posted on 03/05/2004 11:40:18 AM PST by Bronco_Buster_FweetHyagh
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To: Pharmboy
Dr. Haile-Selassie said the shapes and wear patterns of six teeth in particular were "significant in understanding how the dentition evolved from an apelike common ancestor into the earliest hominids."

His brother, Prof Haile-Unlikely, disagrees.

20 posted on 03/05/2004 11:47:15 AM PST by Consort
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To: general_re
Ah, but we've seen them take quotes out of context and present them as coming from evolutionist scientists as "proof" that even the proponents of the theory don't believe it.
21 posted on 03/05/2004 12:02:31 PM PST by Dimensio (I gave you LIFE! I -- AAAAAAAAH!)
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To: Pharmboy

I think I'm sophisticated
'Cos I'm living my life
Like a good Homo sapi-an

But all around me
Everybody's multiplying
And they're walking 'round like flies, man

So I'm no better
Than the animals
Sitting in their cages in the zoo, man

'Cos compared to the flowers
And the birds and the trees
I am an ape man

I'm an ape man
I'm an ape ape man
Oh, I'm an ape man
I'm a King Kong man
I'm a voodoo man
Oh, I'm an ape man

'Cos compared to the sun that sits in the sky
Compared to the clouds as they roll by
Compared to the bugs and the spiders and flies
I am an ape man

Lalalalalalala


22 posted on 03/05/2004 1:16:37 PM PST by Willie Green (Go Pat Go!!!)
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To: Pharmboy

23 posted on 03/05/2004 9:54:52 PM PST by beckett
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