Human evolution not from chimps, fossil study confirms

Our ancestors underwent a previously unknown stage of evolution over more than a million years before “Lucy”, the iconic early human ancestor specimen that walked the Earth 3.2 million years ago,” National Geographic Magazine science editor Jamie Shreeve reports

The finding, published in tomorrow’s journal Science, is based on the discovery of the oldest fossil human skeleton, a small-brained, 110-pound (50-kilogram) female of the species called Ardipithecus ramidus.

“The fossil puts to rest the notion, popular since Darwin’s time, that a chimpanzee-like ‘missing link,’ midway resembling something between humans and today’s apes, would eventually be found at the root of the human family tree,” Shreeve writes.

“Indeed, the new evidence suggests that the study of chimpanzee anatomy and behavior, long used to infer the nature of … the earliest human ancestors, is largely irrelevant to understanding our beginnings.”

Science cover illustration copyright 2008 T.H. White

Read the story, see photos, learn more about the fossil from an interactive:

Oldest “Human” Skeleton Found–Disproves “Missing Link” 

PHOTOS: Oldest “Human” Skeleton Refutes “Missing Link”

Interactive: Explore Ardipithecus ramidus


Walking for sex

Jamie Shreeve also launched his new blog today with a related piece on Ardi’s sex life. (Ardi is the name scientists have given this fossil).

It is fascinating reading, “especially if you like learning why human females don’t know when they are ovulating, and men lack the clacker-sized testicles and bristly penises tk sported by chimpanzees,” Shreeve writes. Read the rest of this at:

Did early humans start walking for sex?

Science is publishing 11 different papers about the Ardi research, involving more than 40 different authors.

In this 200th anniversary year of Darwin’s birth, Science is pleased to publish the results of many years of scientific research that suggest an unexpected form for our last common ancestor with the chimpanzees,” writes Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief of Science, in an editorial about the research.

“The history of science assures us that powerful new techniques will be developed in the coming years to accelerate such research, as they have been in the past,” Alberts writes. “We can thus be certain that scientists will eventually obtain a rather detailed record showing how the anatomy of the human body evolved over many millions of years.”


Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn