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Discovering Ardi

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The film viewed recently viewed in class titled “Discovering Ardi” and produced by Discovery Communications shows the breakthrough finding a full skeleton of a new hominid buried deep beneath the group in Ethiopia that links chimpanzees and apes to the modern day homo sapiens. The amazing discovery was lead by Tim White and his team in Ethiopia looking at ashes from millions of years ago in vast lakes, and scorching hot deserts in Hadar, Ethiopia when a molar tooth fossil was found dating 3.2 million years ago and later discovered a child’s jaw with molars attached. They named this individual Lucy and was noted to be one of humans’ first ancestors (Decorse,C.R &Scupin, R,2008). After learning Lucy was more evolved than a chimpanzee they continued to search for a new species dated further when they discovered a finger bone and later a 90 fossil bone skeleton belonging to who they call “Ardipithecus Ramidus”. Ardi was the first species ever found that is displayed a skeletal structure showing the linking connection between both chimps and humans, dating nearly four point four millions years back. She was the key to evolution.

Savanna Hypothesis
In the 1800’s Charles Darwin, a physician of his time discovered the theory of natural selection, stating that a genetic change in population results in differential reproductive success through plants, and animals including humankind. Darwin concluded that humans had evolved through great apes by the process of natural selection. After many years of searching for ancient fossils to piece together evolution and Ardi was discovered, palaeoanthropologists have developed the “Savanna Hypothesis”, stating that the general difference between hominids and apes were caused by hominids being forced out of the forests and onto grasslands, developing a gradual way of life in bipedalism. This hypothesis has long been the conclusion to evolution and the upright walking species. Recently, this theory is being under discussion, some stating that Ardipithecus lived in nor woodland or grassland but a location with small areas of both. Collected fossilized seeds of trees and plants were examined to look for the carbon isotopes which showed that Ardi in fact lived in an area of tropical grasses, and not forest land.

Middle Awash Project
The Middle Awash Project is a group of research archaeologists, geologists and palaeontologists together in search of evolution and human origin in Ethiopia (Discovering, 2009). It is one of the world’s most important research study known for palaeoanthropology, and as a group discovered approximately two hundred and sixty hominid fossils and over sixteen thousand vertebrate fossils, including Lucy and Ardi. Some of the important leaders of this research team in Ethiopia, regarding Ardipithecus are Tim White, Prof. Desmond Clark, Giday WoldeGabriel and Berhane Asfaw (Discovering, 2009). While in the field sifting through the dirt and sand, once a fossil is discovered it will be passed onto project members in the laboratory who will there examine who’s body it belongs to, what species and age. It took three and a half years to simply remove Ardi’s fossil bones from the dirt moulds they were put in for protection and twelve years to completely develop her physical appearance and structure in whole. Overall, this team of research dedicated a large amount of their career to discovering Ardi.

Ardipithecus Ramidus
In the year 1994, a bone fossil skeleton was discovered by palaeoanthropologists in Hadar, Ethiopia that was the first discovering a new species linking the connection between great apes and the modern day humans, of which they named “Ardipithecus Ramidus”, or Ardi. This was the largest skeleton of an unknown species discovered when researchers began to remove the fossils from the soil to be set to laboratories for further information. Volcanic rocks surrounding Ardi’s location produced environmental gasses which detected her age, dating back four point four million years in the past, which lead researchers to believe that Ardi was the key to evolution (Discovering, 2009). While examining her fossils for clues, scientists noted that Ardi carried a small skull, similar to apes yet was bipedal like humans. This news says that human’s common ancestor with chimpanzees did not walk alike them, but upright, suggesting that humans are not created from chimps, but an entirely new species now named Ardi.

The discovery of Ardipithecus and her bipedality tells us that hominids went through a major reproductive change of strategy which created Ardi, a whole new species of evolution (Discovering, 2009). A second change found in Ardipithecus from chimpanzees were her teeth, which unlike them were small and blunt canines. Researchers have theorized that Ardi did not need honing teeth because of her bipedality and the idea that she could carry things in her arms and walk longer distances, more similar to human characteristics. The theory suggesting the cause her small blunt teeth is from chimpanzee’s sexual selection process, which mentions that female chimps developed a new attraction to the males only with smaller teeth, creating a greater offspring and reproductive success (Discovering, 2009). The discovering of this new species was the most magnificent and greatest discovery of evolution of all time. Learning of Ardi’s way of live and skeletal structure became key to understanding better how humans today have evolved. Summary

The discovery of Lucy and Ardi became the two first species found by anthropologists that officially linked humans to not directly to chimpanzees but to an entirely new species connecting us(Discovery, 2009). Ardipithecus Ramidus’s characteristics of a small skull, grasping toe and similar environment to her ape ancestors were some of the similarities not yet related to humans but joined with other homo sapien characteristics. Over twelve years of researching and tests have been done to learn new information about how Ardi was structured and her way of life. Sketches showing her physical features took years to vision exactly how Ardi perceived. The amount of work done by many scientists and researchers was tremendous and created a whole new perspective on how us human species has been created today.


The film “Discovering Ardi” was extremely interesting in my personal opinion. I found myself being very intrigued watching the film and learning how this new species was discovered. Understanding how Ardipithecus was found in the field, to how she was sent to the laboratories to retrieve and age then designed by an artist to figure out what she looked was extremely interesting and rewarding to watch. I had not heard of Ardipithecus Ramidus before and feel like other people should view this film and learn about the new key to evolution.


Decorse,C.R & Scupin, R. (2008). Anthropology: A Global Perspective. Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Prentice Hall.

Discovering Communications. (2009). Discovering Ardi. Discovery Channel: Silver Springs, M.D.

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