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An artist's scupting of A. afarensis, based on the earlier Lucy skeleton.  (Source: Educa Madrid)

The bones of "Big Man"  (Source: Y. Haile Selassie et al./PNAS 2010)
"Whatever we’ve been saying about afarensis based on Lucy was mostly wrong."

Much like the revolution of modern astronomy in the late 1400s and early 1500s dissolved the notion that the Sun revolved around the Earth, a renaissance in paleontology is dissolving virtually any doubt that remained about man's origins.  Another new discovery has just been completed, the latest of several high profile publications over only the last year.

The new skeleton is a male Australopithecus afarensis, which has been discovered in Ethiopia’s Afar region.  The skeleton joins the celebrated "Lucy" skeleton, unearthed by paleoanthropologists in 1974, and a child skeleton unearthed last year.

The ancient male, an ancestor of modern man, lived approximately 3.6 million years ago in the plains of Eastern Africa, according to several dating techniques.  Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who led the team, says the skeleton offers some major new insights into the species.

The skeleton has been nicknamed "Big Man" as it towers at 5 to 5½ feet tall over the much shorter 3½-foot-tall Lucy, who lived 3.2 million years ago.  That large height deviation raises questions over which of the specimen is the norm in terms of height.  The new skeleton was unearthed between 2005 and 2008 at a dig site only 48 km from where Lucy was found.

The skeleton also reveals new insights into the bone structure of the species.  Big Man's 32 discovered bones reveal long legs, a narrow chest, and a inwardly curving back.  All of these indicate that he walked much like a human and enjoyed a ground-based lifestyle.  This is very different from the awkward gait that Lucy was thought to have.  Lucy also had been thought to climb trees a great deal.

The shoulder blade of Big Man is quite different from chimpanzees or gorillas.  And the ribs also appear human-like.  All of these factors indicate a far different chest shape than the chimplike, funnel-shaped chest that reconstructions of the Lucy skeleton indicated.

While confusing perhaps in context with Lucy, the conclusion that ancient hominids were not chimplike is consistent with the analysis of the 4.4-million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus hominid that was conducted last year. 

Professor Haile-Selassie states, "Whatever we’ve been saying about afarensis based on Lucy was mostly wrong.  The skeletal framework to enable efficient two-legged walking was established by the time her species had evolved."

Carol Ward of the University of Missouri in Columbia seems to agree with these conclusions, stating, "This beautiful afarensis specimen confirms the unique skeletal shape of this species at a larger size than Lucy, in what appears to be a male."

While the discovery may have cleared up debate about whether Lucy was more chimplike or humanlike, the debate about gait is sure to continue.  Harvard University anthropologist Daniel Lieberman states, "There’s nothing special I can see on this new find that will change anyone’s opinion."

Anthropologist Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University, however, believes that the discovery shows Big Man to be a good runner, which could have made the 3.6-million-year-old footprints found more than 30 years ago at Laetoli, Tanzania.  Among the evidence supporting this hypothesis are Big Man's pelvis supported humanlike hamstring muscles and human-like arched feet.

The full study on the Big Man discovery is published here in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A separate 3.3 million year old skeleton of a 3-year-old baby female A. afarensis was presented four years ago.  Nicknamed "Selam" (the word for "peace" in several African languages), the near-complete skeleton was found in 2000 south of the Awash river by a team led by Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

The paper on that discovery was published in a 2006 edition of Nature and can be found here.

These discoveries add to the aforementioned recent discovery of "Ardi", the discovery of Australopithecus sediba, and the completion of an early draft of the Neanderthal genome.  All of these wonderful discoveries have helped to blow away the fog of uncertainty surrounding human evolution and offered a much clearer picture of how man arrived at its current form after a slow process of evolution that took millions of years.


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RE: What a Crock
By sgw2n5 on 6/22/2010 1:26:25 PM , Rating: 2
There is no evidence for creationism. None.

There is a mountain of peer reviewed evidence for evolution, with easily reproducible results.

No matter how anyone tries to spin it... creationism just isn't science.


RE: What a Crock
By MrBlastman on 6/22/2010 1:33:38 PM , Rating: 1
Correct, there is no physical evidence at all. Nada, zip, zilch. It isn't a science at all.

But, a Creationist can still be logical and believe in science. That is what I am getting at. They are out there, and they aren't Fundamentalists either. They routinely question anything and practically everything they believe.

Creationism is just a belief and a faith, but you can't say that it can not ever be proven.

We know evolution is a fact--this much is true and a logical Creationist would never dare argue against it. There is plenty of evidence to support evolution.

The divide exists on the origin of life, where there is zero scientific evidence to prove either viewpoint. It is like pissing up a river that keeps flowing back on you, never getting to where you want it to go.


RE: What a Crock
By sgw2n5 on 6/22/2010 1:47:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Creationism is just a belief and a faith, but you can't say that it can not ever be proven. We know evolution is a fact--this much is true and a logical Creationist would never dare argue against it. There is plenty of evidence to support evolution. The divide exists on the origin of life, where there is zero scientific evidence to prove either viewpoint.


Well... I personally know many creationists who reject every facet of evolution, but your mileage may vary.

And as far as the origin of life... there actually is a fair amount of supportive evidence for abiogenesis (I could send you some literature if you'd like, just give me your email if you are interested), but there is no way to truly re-create (or even know) exact physical conditions of earth 5 billion years ago.

Abiogenesis is speculative at best, and to scientifically "prove" it, you would need to know the exact physical conditions of ancient earth (which can be approximated) but the problem lies with the time frame. A scientist would literally have to let the experiment run for several million years to get the data and prove that it actually occurred.


RE: What a Crock
By GTVic on 6/22/2010 2:03:39 PM , Rating: 2
And I know many people who think the lottery is a solid investment, what's your point?


RE: What a Crock
By Reclaimer77 on 6/22/2010 2:12:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well... I personally know many creationists who reject every facet of evolution, but your mileage may vary.


Evolution isn't the only science on the planet. Do they also not believe in gravity, relativity, and thermodynamic? Do they believe rain is God's tears falling from heaven and not atmospheric condensation? I find that hard to believe.

I mean, I'm trying to stay out of this, but what I'm reading from a lot of you is that if someone doesn't fully buy into the theory of evolution and how man came to be, they are automatically knuckle dragging braindead backwoods inbred worthless lobotomized apes who reject all science and modern advances. Some kind of cave dwellers or something.

You know I really hate Jason Mick for posting articles which intentionally divide the readership and cause arguments based on faith vs. science. When the truth is people with faith enjoy, believe, and benefit from science on a daily basis and they are well aware of it. Is it really THAT important to our daily lives that everyone agree on what happened billions of years ago? I have bigger problems to be honest.


RE: What a Crock
By ClownPuncher on 6/22/2010 2:43:39 PM , Rating: 2
Dude, you are funny. You are probably the #1 poster on DT that sees anyone who disagrees and strait up calls them idiots or retards. Don't put on your middle of the road hat, we all know it is BS.


RE: What a Crock
By Reclaimer77 on 6/22/2010 2:59:30 PM , Rating: 2
Well yeah but those topics are really important. You know, like where we're going not where we've been? This discussion is just an endless, never-to-be-resolved, belief war.

And, oh yeah, you're an idiot Clown :)


RE: What a Crock
By ClownPuncher on 6/22/2010 3:24:10 PM , Rating: 2
Importance is relative. Many people are skeptical of what they are told to put their faith in, whether it be evolution, Christ, Zoroaster, lack of God, Buddha and so on...

I think it is a noble quest to try and find out exactly where we came from and why, and I don't see why anyone should discount anyone elses religious beliefs when there is little proof in any of the teachings that any of them are fact.

My hope is that, whether or not all of this is ever figured out, we can all respect each other and what we choose to put our faith in. (excluding violent fanatics, who should be euthanized)


RE: What a Crock
By Reclaimer77 on 6/22/2010 4:12:10 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
My hope is that, whether or not all of this is ever figured out, we can all respect each other and what we choose to put our faith in. (excluding violent fanatics, who should be euthanized)


Right which is why you came out and called my post BS just because of who I am, not actually what it contained?


RE: What a Crock
By ClownPuncher on 6/22/2010 6:21:08 PM , Rating: 2
You're catching on! Why would someone trust or listen to your values, if you do not apply them to yourself?


RE: What a Crock
By retrospooty on 6/22/2010 5:51:49 PM , Rating: 2
"if someone doesn't fully buy into the theory of evolution and how man came to be, they are automatically knuckle dragging braindead backwoods inbred worthless "

True dat! =)

Evolution happened. That is a fact. We all came from single celled organisms that evolved over the past 4 billion years on earth. Our species has been on earth for appx 150,000 years. If you cant accept that as fact then yes, you are a knuckle dragging braindead backwoods inbred worthless ape.


RE: What a Crock
By teldar on 6/22/2010 5:43:28 PM , Rating: 2
He does say LOGICAL creationists. Which I disagree with.

I can't understand how a creationist can be a scientist, picking and choosing what parts of the body of science they want to accept and what parts they want to throw out the window to support personal religious ideals.
Sounds like knowledge schizophrenia to me.


RE: What a Crock
By GeoK on 6/22/2010 1:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
There is no evidence for life beginning as a series of random actions and reactions; the infamous 1953 experiment "created" some amino acids - nothing else. Nothing convincing has been done since that 1953 experiment. And no one, Dawkins or otherwise, has described, let alone acknowledged, that some mechanism had be behind all of these random events that somehow transformed pond scum to sentient human beings. Speaking of sentient, I've noted that the "scientific" evolutionists don't want to talk much about that same pond scum acquiring consciousness at some point.

I guess I have missed the "mountain" of peer reviewed evidence. I would especially like to see some evidence describing some or all of the myriad of steps involved in going from a few amino acids to sexual reproduction of living cells.

Creationism, as I understand it, does not claim to be science. To me, Creationism describes a subset, if you will, of an ancient, and Holy, record and belief passed down by our Forefathers; well, more correctly, my Forefathers since I believe what has been written and passed on to us.


RE: What a Crock
By sgw2n5 on 6/22/2010 1:57:23 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Speaking of sentient, I've noted that the "scientific" evolutionists don't want to talk much about that same pond scum acquiring consciousness at some point.


There's the problem. You don't understand evolution at all. Nobody claims that pond scum acquired conciousness... NOBODY.

This "pond scum", however, did give rise to very simple life forms that had the ability to self replicate. Over vast amounts of time, mutations were acquired that enabled more and more diverse functions and... blah blah blah

Ya know what? I think I've been trolled. There is NO WAY a biochemist/molecular biologist wouldn't know this.


RE: What a Crock
By GeoK on 6/22/2010 3:19:46 PM , Rating: 2
Ahh - the wonders of anonymous blogs. Rather than come up with concrete facts or statements - the old (and tired)
technique of denigrating the poster is employed. First of all, you can't have your cake and eat it too! It is
intellectually dishonest to say, out of one side of your mouth, well I believe in evolution, and then say, but I don't want to talk about the precursor of all of these evolving animals and organism, to wit: Creation. So - rather than saying something of substance - the statement is made, well poster X must be a troll. The anti-Creationists posting on DT are usually the first to bring up Creation - and the comments on Jason's post match this profile exactly.

And, Creationists, which are constantly being criticized on DT, refers the creation of life. I wasn't the first poster to mention Creationism, I just responded to comments posted before mine. In fact, if the "Facts" are checked - the second commenter is very anti-religious, and by association, anti-Creationist.

Lastly, the old debate technique of changing the subject is also dishonest in my opinion, as in: you did not use the
correct term and thus you must be an idiot (abiogenesis comment). Fortunately, I have a day-time job so none of the negative comments have hurt the least bit!!


RE: What a Crock
By retrospooty on 6/22/2010 9:47:07 PM , Rating: 2
Evolution happened. That is a fact. There is evidence of it all over proven 1000's and 1000's of ways. If you choose to ignore all of that its your business, but DONT be surprised that people think you are stupid for it.


RE: What a Crock
By drycrust3 on 6/22/2010 2:03:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is no evidence for creationism.


How strange you say this, because wherever I go I see tons and tons of evidence for creation and for after effects of the flood of Noah.
For example, in my country (New Zealand) it is very common to see streams and rivers in an area where once a very large body of water flowed, just as though the whole country was at one time under water and then was raised out of the water quickly, as in "less than a day". This is consistent with the description of events in the Bible, but is inconsistent with current generally accepted theories on geography.
I am quite sure this sort of phenomena is also present in the USA and the rest of the world, although I am also quite sure that if you try hard enough you won't see it.


RE: What a Crock
By MozeeToby on 6/22/2010 3:48:14 PM , Rating: 2
When oil and mining companies start using flood geology to predict the next big find give me a call. Until then, the safe money seems to be with mainstream geology given that it can make useful predictions that investigation then finds correct.

Besides, even if there is evidence for a global flood (which there isn't) that supports creationism in only the most tangential of ways. Proving that parts of the bible are true is trivial, a matter of archeology. That doesn't mean that every word of the bible is factually, literally true. A book can have many pieces of information that are historically accurate while still having other parts that are not.


RE: What a Crock
By drycrust3 on 6/22/2010 10:35:00 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Besides, even if there is evidence for a global flood (which there isn't) that supports creationism in only the most tangential of ways.


Strange, pretty well every country I have been to has signs of a world wide flood. My guess is America does too. As I said before, if you really want to not see the signs, then you won't.

Several months ago I read how some dude decided to see if raw diamonds had any Carbon-14 in them, which, if they were millions of years old, they should not (or more correctly, the amount was less than their instruments could measure). Not only was he surprised to find that there was, but he was even more surprised to find that the age of the raw diamonds was pretty much consistent regardless of the "age" of the fossil layer it was found in. This strongly suggests that the current "age by depth" of fossil layers is wrong, and that all the fossil layers were pretty much laid about the same time.
In addition, with an age of around 80K years, it also suggests that the currently assumed millions of years old ages for fossil layers is also wrong.

My prediction is that when someone finally bothers to check those skeletons for Carbon-14 they will find some. My guess is they will probably be less than 500 years old.


RE: What a Crock
By retrospooty on 6/22/2010 9:52:00 PM , Rating: 2
How strange you say this, because wherever I go I see tons and tons of evidence for creation and for after effects of the flood of Noah.
For example, in my country (New Zealand) it is very common to see streams and rivers in an area where once a very large body of water flowed, just as though the whole country was at one time under water and then was raised out of the water quickly, as in "less than a day". This is consistent with the description of events in the Bible, but is inconsistent with current generally accepted theories on geography.
I am quite sure this sort of phenomena is also present in the USA and the rest of the world, although I am also quite sure that if you try hard enough you won't see it.


Uhh... you do know that the earth is 4.5 billions of years old and the land has literally been turned inside/out several times over due to natural processes, plates shifting, some of which causes massive earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. Every bit of land has been underwater, and every bit of seabed has been dry land at some point.

Its not due to a great flood you heaping fool, its known science and called plate tectonics.


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