Ardi Fills Evolutionary Gap Between Man and Chimp

Latest on fossil find shakes the tree of evolution. (Plush Studios/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

No seriously, breathe a sigh of relief -- it's "Ardi" as in Ardipithecus ramidus, not "Artie" as "Artie Lang." After months of rumors, the official word has finally broken out of the University of California at Berkeley's Human Evolution Research Center, and everyone's going ga-ga over this 4.4-million-year-old hominid, according to Discovery News.

Of course, it's important to stress that the archaeological find itself dates back to 1992. That's when anthropologists discovered the first of the remains in the Middle Awash region of Ethiopia. The specimen seemed to offer a little bit of chimp and a little bit of man, standing about 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall, weighing 120 pounds and displaying equal abilities for tree climbing and walking upright. Ardi brings anthropologists ever closer to their Holy Grail: nailing down the last common ancestor between humans and chimpanzees before the two went their separate evolutionary ways.

We're talking a vital point in the ascension of man here. While the actual split between hominid and panin/chimp lines probably occurred some 5.4 million years ago, the 4.4-million-year-old Ardi is as close to the mark as we've managed to hit. The famous Lucy, for instance, was a mere 3.2 million years old.

Still fuzzy on all of this? Well lucky for you, your friends here at put together an excellent suite of articles on the issues involved (linked below) and Discovery Channel has a whole series "Discovering Ardi" premiering Sunday, Oct. 11. Go Ape at Is Africa the cradle of humanity? What is the Last Common Ancestor? What separates humans from chimps and other apes? Top 10 Early Hominid Finds and Their Locations

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.