NZ Herald: Between the trees and ground, there was Ardi

The Independent writes, in an article in the NZ Herald, about Ardi – the oldest living member of humanity, and more than a million years older than Lucy.  The research into Ardi has taken the team of scientists responsible 17 years, and has had some surprising results.

Of these, one of the biggest shake-ups has been the explosion of the conventional view that humans’ ancestors walked on their knuckles – it seems that chimpanzees have diverged just as much from our common ancestor as we have.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“In addition to the many fragments of bones, scientists have found that a partial skeleton of a female Ardipithecus – Ardi, as she is affectionately called – is the oldest, most complete set of fossilised remains belonging to the many ancestors descended from that elusive common ancestor, a so-far undiscovered species that is believed to have lived between about 6 million and 7 million years ago.

“The investigation, involving fossil collection in the field and sophisticated analysis in the laboratory, has revealed how this early human ancestor bridged the divide between the purely tree-dwelling past of our more distant primate relatives and the grassland savannah habitat of our fully bipedal ancestors.

“Ardi may have been bipedal, but the way she walked on her two legs was not exactly the way scientists had imagined bipedalism to have evolved. Professor [Tim White of the University of California Berkeley, one of the leaders of the research] once quipped to a colleague that if you want to find something that moved like Ardi must have moved, you had to go to the bar in Star Wars.

“”Ardipithecus is not a chimp. It’s not a human. It’s what we used to be. You’re seeing a mosaic creature, that is neither chimpanzee, nor it is human. It is Ardipithecus,” he said.”