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Ardi displaces Lucy as oldest hominid skeleton
Date:10/1/2009

and teeth, and scanning electron microscopes were used to study the structure and surface details. The 5,000 micro-CT slices through the broken skull allowed the team to reconstruct it on a computer and then "print" it on a 3-D stereolithic printer at the University of Tokyo. A cast of Ardi's skull, along with video and comparisons, can be seen now in the Human Evolution display on the second floor of UC Berkeley's Valley Life Sciences Building.

In all, 47 scientists from 10 countries contributed to the 11 Science papers, providing detailed analyses of the feet, pelvis, teeth and general anatomy of Ar. ramidus and reconstructions of the geology and biology of the area where Ardi lived 4.4 million years ago. Two of the papers analyze more than 150,000 plant and animal fossils including 6,000 individually catalogued vertebrate fossils to reconstruct the large and small mammals and birds of the area. Among these are 20 species new to science, including shrews, bats, rodents, hares and carnivores.

"We had to do a lot of work to bring this world back to life, but by merging the skeletal information with the data on biology and geology, we end up with a very, very high-resolution snapshot of Ardi's world," White said. "It was a very cold case investigation."

CTs of the tooth enamel, for example, revealed that Ardi was an omnivore, eating a diet different from that of living African apes, such as chimps, which eat primarily fruit, and gorillas, which eat primarily leaves, stems and bark. The team suggests that Ardipithecus spent a lot of time on the ground looking for nutritious plants, mushrooms, invertebrates and perhaps small vertebrates.

It wasn't until 1 million years after Ardi that hominids like Lucy were able to range extensively into the savannas and develop the robust premolar and molar teeth with thick enamel needed to eat hard seeds and roots. One of these species then started scavenging and using stone tools
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Contact: Robert Sanders
rsanders@berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

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