## Friday, October 02, 2009

If you're younger than 45, chances are that as a schoolkid, you were taught that Australopithecus afarensis was the oldest known human ancestor.

That's because Lucy, a female representative of that ethnic group, was found by Donald Johanson in Hadar, Ethiopia, in 1974. Lucy lived 3.2 million years ago.

It was widely believed - in fact, since the very era of Charles Darwin - that even earlier ancestors had to be closer to chimps: this hypothetical link remained missing but it was expected that more chimp-like ancestors would be found soon.

The status of this speculation just changed dramatically, assuming that the new findings will pass the tests that they should pass. An older ur-woman was recently reconstructed from bones found in the Ethiopian desert between 1992 and 2009.

Ms Ardi from the Ardipithecus ramidus species lived 4.4 million years ago but she looked nothing like chimps. (See her extra pictures and don't ask me why they think that her boobs were so small).

This fact makes it somewhat more likely that the common ancestor of the humans and the apes looked like neither. You may check an up-to-date sketch of the evolutionary tree. The improvement may be just quantitative but it will surely require some textbooks to be rewritten.

The experts claim that the skeleton looks very primitive to them. Let me admit that I don't see the "huge difference in simplicity" from the contemporary humans. Do you?