90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
'Ardi' and Human Evolution
Composite photograph of the skeleton showing approximate placement of elements. (From Science Magazine: click to see full-size image at www.sciencemag.org).

From Science magazine. Click to see full-size image at www.sciencemag.org.

It’s been at least 4.4 million years since “Ardi” was in the limelight.

And the limelight then was nothing like now.

Magazines, television, and websites all over the world  have been flashing the image this week of a homely, hairy human ancestor:

Ardipithecus ramidus, her skeleton painstakingly recreated from tiny fragments scooped up in Ethiopia.

For years, we’ve all known “Lucy” as the oldest link. Now, there stands “Ardi,” asking us to reconsider what we know about the path of human origins.

This hour, On Point: a key interpreter of the discovery on what we’ve learned from Ardi.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Joining us from Charlottesville, Va., is Owen Lovejoy, professor of biological anthropology at Kent State University. He was a lead analyst on the team that discovered and examined “Ardi,” and he was a lead author on some of the articles in Science presenting the findings.

From Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Bernard Wood, professor of human origins and human evolutionary anatomy at George Washington University. He is a senior scientist at the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution.

More:

You can find out more about the archaelogical site, called the “Middle Awash,” in Ethiopia, where Ardi was found.

Here’s an illustration in the journal Science showing how the researchers who discovered Ardi think she fits into the path of human evolution. The “CLCA” in the graphic indicates the “Last Common Ancestor” shared by humans and chimps:

ardi

Credit: Courtesy of Science magazine (www.sciencemag.org). Copyright J. H. Matternes.

Here’s another illustration courtesy of Science showing Ardi’s unique feet, compared with that of humans and chimpanzees/bonobos (the genus called Pan):

Ardifoot

Credits: Courtesy of magazine (www.sciencemag.org). Copyright J. H. Matternes; chimpanzee climbing, J. DeSilva; bonobo and human feet, S. Ingham.

And below is an artist’s reconstructions for Science showing how Ardi’s skeleton, muscles, and body looked, and how she would have moved on top of branches:

Credits: Courtesy of Science, ILLUSTRATIONS © 2009, J. H. MATTERNES

Credits: Courtesy of magazine (www.sciencemag.org). Illustrations © 2009, J. H. Matternes.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 31, 2014
Nurse Kaci Hickox, right, and her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur are followed by a Maine State Trooper as they ride bikes on a trail near her home in Fort Kent, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.  (AP)

Quarantines and Ebola. An exploding rocket. Apple’s CEO comes out. Hawaiian lava flows. Midterms in the home stretch. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Oct 31, 2014
Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and Sauncho Smilax (Beninico del Toro) share a drink in a scene from the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film, "Inherent Vice," an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. (Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment)

from “Interstellar” to “Into the Woods.” The biggest and best movies of the fall and holiday seasons. What to see, what to skip.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 30, 2014
Soylent is a new meal-replacement substance meant to offer a complete nutritional alternative to traditional food. (Courtesy Soylent)

Soylent is a grey smoothie the consistency of pancake batter that claims it can replace all your food. On a crowded planet, is this the future of food? Plus: what does the Antares rocket crash mean for private space travel?

 
Oct 30, 2014
Realtor Helen Hertz stands in front of one of her listings in Cleveland Heights, Ohio Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. Hertz, a real estate agent for more than three decades, has seen firsthand what has happened to the market in the wake of the recession and foreclosure crisis. (AP)

Home ownership rates are at a 20-year low. Millennials and more aren’t buying. We’ll look at what American’s think now about owning a home.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
A Bit More On The History Of Quarantine
Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

So this whole quarantine thing — why to do it, when to do it, and when to just say no.

More »
Comment
 
The Explicast, Episode Two: Why Is Election Day On A Tuesday?
Friday, Oct 24, 2014

The Explicast is back for another round. This time, we’re looking at Election Day, and why we all keep voting on a random Tuesday in early November.

More »
2 Comments
 
Our Week In The Web: October 24, 2014
Friday, Oct 24, 2014

On comments, comment sections, and ROY G BIV.

More »
Comment