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"Ardi-Facts" -- The Discovery Files

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An international team of scientists has for the first time thoroughly described Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominid species that lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia. The female skeleton, nicknamed Ardi, is 4.4 million years old, 1.2 million years older than the skeleton of Lucy.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Shaking the Family Tree.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

No doubt about it, we love Lucy is the oldest common ancestor with humans and apes ever found. Well, move over Lucy, the discovery of ancient skeletal remains in the Ethiopian desert in the early 90's, and subsequent study of the bones from the site has led scientists to create a new genus, and declare a new oldest common relative ever found.

An international team of scientists recently made history by changing our understanding of history, through a painstakingly detailed analysis and reconstruction of the bones from that site.

(SOUND EFFECT: prehistoric jungle) Meet "Ardi" -- as in Ardipithecus Ramidus. Ardi is a female hominid that walked the earth 1.2 million years before Lucy, that's 4.4 million years ago. She could walk upright, although the team believes she spent some time on all fours. She probably wasn't as agile in the trees as a chimp, but when she walked using her hands it was on the palms, not her knuckles like chimps or gorillas.

Ardi did not really resemble apes or humans -- indicating the last common ancestor of apes and humans looked like neither, and that both lines evolved quite a bit since they split seven million years ago. The find changes our understanding of human origins and early evolution.

Ardi never dreamed that in 2009, she'd be the cover girl for Science Magazine.

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