December 23, 2009

Ardi Discovery is Science's Breakthrough of the Year for 2009

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The Science Breakthrough of the Year for 2009 is the discovery and analysis of a 4.4 million-year-old hominid skeleton, nicknamed Ardi, which has rewritten the book on human evolution.

Science and its publisher, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, recognize the research done on Ardipithecus ramidus fossils as this year's top breakthrough, appropriately enough, during the year of Darwin.

Scientists from Northeast Ohio were among the researchers who published 11 papers this year, describing a possible human ancestor in the midst of changing from climbing on all fours to walking upright.

The Ardipithecus research "changes the way we think about early human evolution, and it represents the culmination of 15 years of painstaking, highly collaborative research by 47 scientists of diverse expertise from nine nations, who carefully analyzed 150,000 specimens of fossilized animals and plants," said Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science , in a related editorial.

Ardi is far different from the chimpanzees so often thought to be the model of our forebears. The fossils show that human ancestors and apes were already evolving away from each other more than 4 million years ago, explained Scott W. Simpson, associate professor of anatomy at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and research associate at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator and head of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and an adjunct professor in the departments of anthropology, anatomy, and cognitive science at Case Western Reserve, discovered the skeleton in 1994 near the Awash River in Ethiopia.

Haile-Selassie; Simpson; Bruce Latimer, former executive director of the Cleveland Museum of Natural history and an adjunct professor of anatomy, anthropology and cognitive science at Case Western Reserve; and Linda Spurlock, director of human health at the museum, contributed to seven of the papers. C. Owen Lovejoy, an anthropology professor at Kent State University, was lead author on five papers and a contributor to three more.

Science identified nine other important scientific accomplishments from this past year in a top ten list, appearing in a special news feature in the journal's Dec. 18, 2009 issue. The list can be found online.

Simpson, Haile-Selassie and Latimer are all members of the Institute for the Science of Origins (ISO) at the university. ISO is a collaborative team of faculty members and researchers from diverse scientific disciplines seeking to understand how complex systems emerge and evolve. Learn more about Ardi.

For more information contact Kevin Mayhood, 216.368.4442.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, December 23, 2009 01:07 PM | News Topics: Awards, Collaborations/Partnerships, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty, Provost Initiatives, Research, School of Medicine, news

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