Ardi

ardi

Ardi is the name given to the fossilized skeletal remains of a female Ardipithecus ramidus, an early human-like species 4.4 million years old. It is the most complete early hominid specimen discovered, with most of the skull, teeth, pelvis, hands and feet. The word Ardi means ‘ground floor’ and the word ramid means ‘root’ in the Afar language.

Ardi, a more complete set of remains than the Australopithecus ‘Lucy,’ cannot be a common ancestor of Chimpanzees and humans. Chimpanzee feet are specialized for grasping trees. A. ramidus feet are better suited for walking. The canine teeth of ramidus are smaller, and equal in size between males and females. This suggests reduced male-to-male conflict, pair-bonding, and increased parental investment.

Fossils of A. ramidus were first found in Ethiopia in 1992, but it took 17 years to assess their significance. Ardi stood 4 feet tall (120 cm) and weighed around 110 pounds (50 kg), about 6 inches taller than Lucy but almost double her weight. The skeleton was discovered at a site called Aramis in the arid badlands near the Awash River in Ethiopia.

Ardi lived more recently than the most recent common ancestor of chimps and humans, but still provides some evidence for what that ancestor was like. Specifically, the skeleton suggests the common ancestor was not as chimp-like as some had supposed, but rather was probably a quadrupedal arboreal climber that lacked specializations for suspension, vertical climbing, or knuckle-walking (i.e. the common ancestor lacked certain important specializations of chimps).

Researchers infer from the form of Ardi’s pelvis and limbs and the presence of her opposable big toe that she was bipedal when moving on the ground, but quadrupedal when moving about in tree branches. Ardi had a more primitive walking ability than later hominids, and could not walk or run for long distances. The teeth suggest omnivory, and are more generalized than those of modern apes.

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