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Creation Science Fiction™

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New Fossil Helps Us Understand Transition between Ardi And Lucy

An amazing new skull with an interesting story helps us better understand the transition between Ardipithecus and Australopithecus around 4 million years ago. I'm seeing headlines like "New Fossil Shakes Up Family Tree," but this isn't a new species, just more data that can help us learn about an important transition.

National Geographic tells how the fossil was discovered:

"On this particular day, Bereino was digging an addition to a temporary goat pen when he noticed a bone exposed in the sandstone surface. Bereino got in touch with a local government official, who agreed that it might be something Haile-Selassie would find interesting.

When the official called Haile-Selassie, he remained skeptical, replying that Bereino should mark where he found the fossil and walk it over to his camp. When Bereino and the official arrived, Haile-Selassie soon realized the magnitude of the find. Bereino had found a maxilla, or upper jawbone, belonging to an ancient hominin.

Haile-Selassie immediately stopped what he was doing and walked the 2.5 miles to Bereino’s goat pen. Just feet away from where Bereino had found the maxilla, Haile-Selassie soon spotted what turned out to be most of the remaining skull. “I didn’t even pick it up, and I started jumping up and down,” Haile-Selassie says. “The [official] looked at me and told his local friends, ‘What is going on with the doctor? Is he going crazy?’”

The fossil shows both primitive (from earlier species) and derived (seen in later species) features and can definitely be considered transitional. An article announcing the discovery in NATURE outlines these features:

"By comparing A. anamensis with other species, and including their new evidence, the authors generated evolutionary family trees in which A. anamensis was consistently placed as the most ancestral of all Australopithecus species and later hominins. This result confirms previous findings6, and reflects the fact that the cranium shows predominantly primitive features — including some in parts never documented before in A. anamensis fossils. MRD has a distinctly protruding face (Fig. 1) and a notably long and narrow braincase. The latter feature is remarkably similar in this respect to that of the 7-million-year-old cranium of Sahelanthropus7, and these two species both had a small brain. The new fossil has several features that are assumed by the authors to be derived rather than primitive. Most striking is the forward projection of the cheek bones, which creates a facial appearance reminiscent of much younger Paranthropushominin species, particularly the 2.5-million-year-old Paranthropus aethiopicus8. The authors conclude that this facial characteristic evolved independently in A. anamensis and later species, but the resemblance might inspire alternative interpretations."

It is truly an exciting time in the study of human origins. More new discoveries have been made the past 20 years than in all previous years combined.



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