Fossil Find Shakes Up Evolution Timeline
Ardipithecus ramidus lived in trees and walked upright
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2009 11:51 AM CDT
Dr. C. Owen Lovejoy, a member if the team, with a reproduction of Lucy's skeleton.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A primate fossil found in Africa in 1994 predates the famous “Lucy” skeleton by 1 million years and offers clues to human evolution, researchers say. “This is huge,” a paleoanthropologist tells the Washington Post. “This is the biggest discovery really since” Lucy. The researchers believe “Ardi”—Ardipithecus ramidus—lived in trees but could walk upright to forage for food on the ground.

“Ardi” would have been able to live in both the forest and savannah environments of Africa some 4 million years ago. “Is she our ancestor?" the team’s leader wonders. “Probably not. If she didn't have any kids, tough luck, she's nobody's ancestor.” But the fossil is as close as scientists have come to the “last common ancestor” of chimps and humans, and suggests our primate cousins have evolved much more than we have.