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Ardi outdoes Lucy as oldest relative -

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SHANE MCLEOD: It could be a new chapter in human evolution. An international team of scientists has
revealed evidence that humans may not have evolved from ancient chimp-like creatures after all.

Researchers have found fossils in Ethiopia that include a partial skeleton of a human-like female
more than four million years old.

She's been nicknamed Ardi and is more than a million years older than the fossil Lucy, which has
long been considered the oldest link to our ancestors.

Lindy Kerin reports.

LINDY KERIN: For the past 15 years scientists have been rebuilding the skeleton of Ardi from
fossils uncovered in Ethiopia in 1994.

They say Ardi, short for Ardipithecus, stood 1.2 metres tall and weighed around 50 kilograms.

Their findings, published in the latest journal of Science, say the 4.4 million-year-old skeleton
shows signs of the first stage of human evolution better than anything before.

Anthropologist Owen Lovejoy from the Kent State University studied both the Ardi and Lucy fossils.

OWEN LOVEJOY: What we have from Ardipithecus are a host of revelations about the earliest phases of
human evolution that Lucy never provided us. It is one of the most revealing hominid fossils I
could ever have imagined.

LINDY KERIN: Scientists knew from their studies of Lucy that humans walked upright as long as 3.2
million years ago.

But Ardi roamed the Earth more than a million years before Lucy. Scientists say she lived in the
woodlands of East Africa, in what is now Ethiopia. She had an ape-like head and toes that allowed
her to climb trees easily.

But Owen Lovejoy says her hands, wrists and pelvis show she walked on flat feet like a modern human
not like a chimp or a gorilla.

OWEN LOVEJOY: Part of a tooth led to a finger bone and a finger bone led to the sizeable portion of
the skeleton that's 4.4 million years old.

She has a pelvis that allows her to negotiate tree branches rather well, so half of her life was
spent in the trees. She would have nested in trees and occasionally fed in trees. But when she was
on the ground she walked upright, pretty close to how you and I walk.

LINDY KERIN: And Ardi's teeth suggest she was possibly an omnivore, eating plants, animals or
whatever she could find.

Owen Lovejoy says the findings provide scientists with new evidence about human evolution.

OWEN LOVEJOY: If you were to ask someone on the street today, what did an early ancestor of humans
look like? They would probably say, well, it would look like Lucy and before that it would look
like a chimpanzee.

What the fossils that are being described in Science today will tell you is that both of those
conclusions are very incorrect.

LINDY KERIN: Tim White is the director of the Human Evolution Research Center at the University of
California. He says the discovery provides the most detailed information to date about the
commonalities and differences between ancient humans and chimps.

He stressed that Ardi is not the "missing link" but he says the discovery opens a new chapter on
human evolution.

TIM WHITE: We can see that, as primitive as this creature is, it has already evolved those special
characters indicating that it's on our side of the family tree and that it is not on the chimpanzee
side of the family tree nor is it the common ancestor.

It's as close as we've ever come to the common ancestor. It tells us that the common ancestor is
deeper in time.

SHANE MCLEOD: Tim White from the Human Evolution Research Center at the University of California
ending Lindy Kerin's report.