Researchers may have discovered a human ancestor considerably older than the Lucy Australopithecus discovered thirty years ago:
“Ardi” is the nickname given to a remarkable, shattered skeleton that an international team of scientists believes is a major breakthrough in the study of human origins. The skeletal remains were painstakingly recovered from the Ethiopian desert along with bones from at least 35 other members of a species scientists call Ardipithecus ramidus. The 15-year investigation of Ardipithecus culminated Thursday in the publication of a raft of papers in the online edition of the journal Science, as well as dual press conferences in Washington and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“This is huge. This is the biggest discovery really since the ‘Lucy’ skeleton of the 1970s,” said Carol Ward, a University of Missouri paleoanthropologist who was not involved with the research but had been given a preview so that she could offer an independent assessment.
The researchers aren’t actually arguing that our genus, Homo, descended from Ardipithecus ramidus. They’re arguing that Australopithecus evolved from some member of Ardipithecus and that Homo evolved from Australopithecus.
There’s a bit more about them and some pictures here.