a. afarensis

anonymous asked:

What is the most spectacular display of magic you have witnessed?

This has taken me a couple of days to get to, mostly because, well. Magic ent real, not HP magic. I’ve seen prayers answered, I’ve seen people praising spells to help their confidence, and crystals to aid their sleep, but I’ve not seen magic as it’s shown in HP.

This is what I have seen:

A rock, rising out of the earth, rising above a forest, standing so great and tall a palace was built atop it, a gate carved round with a lion’s paws, pools for pleasure, and a wall shined so long by touch it is a mirror. There are paintings and carvings still well preserved, and stairways carved up sheer rock face. This is Sigiriya.

A tube of rock, dark and hard, with rocks inside shaded different colours. There were no signs to tell you what a guidebook, or a geologist would. The stones were from the lava, that had poured down it, and the rainbow on their skin was from the temperature they cooled in the tube the lava had made. This was a lava tube.

An Oak, over 800 years old, spread wide in branches and in trunk, burned in some parts, bark peeled off, used to string swings on and to climb, and to hide by those who drop into the hole in it’s trunk. It still produces acorns. This is Old Knobbley.

Trees frozen in clay and stone, trees gone opalescent with age, trees from prehistory, with pieces that look, for a moment, like they could be naught but driftwood, driftwood in a desert. This is the Petrified Forest.

This is what I have seen:

Elephants dancing at a Perahera, as the Buddha’s tooth paraded around Kandy. They carried car batteries on their necks to power the fairy lights in the costumes they wore, and they danced to the beat of the drums as the fire dancers swirled their batons, as the dancers danced, as the drummers drummed (if someone says an elephant cannot dance, they’ve never seen a Perahera where more than sixty elephants swayed and paced to the music through the streets of Kandy).

Bones so ancient they have turned to rock, bones found in marshes and caves and graves, bones up to now. Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, Homo sapiens sapiens. Bones that told the story of our history, of how we came down from trees, paced through Savannah - ran - and spread all the way around the world (if someone believes that Africa is insignificant, that the destruction throughout Africa and the Near East means nothing, they are the ones who are inhuman, and have forgotten that humankind was born there, in Africa, and Civilisation was born in Mesopotamia).

I have seen a blade knapped from stone, I have seen the path of tools, from spear, to atlatl, to bow and marvelled at the leap each took. Humans are more than people, we are minds, we invent and amaze eternal. 64,000 years ago someone realised that you could bend a stick and tie a string to it and use that to hunt. 64,000 years later we still use it. Bows are not primitive, bows are evidence of human leaps of logic.

I have seen the bright purple and yellow of crocuses, blooming too early against the frost, and I have seen the last snowdrops before the fields turn every colour but white. I have seen fields dotted with red poppies, and ones gone golden in summer heat. I have seen woods, green with life, live with sounds of birds and dogs and rabbits leaping through.

I have seen dogs show more compassion than a human, and cats more friendliness than I had thought them able. I have seen horses run for home and know the route perfectly, and a sparrowhawk, wing broken, still try to fly before the vets took it to heal. I have seen animals show more intelligence and more awareness than humans, and I have seen humans express compassion for a creature with wings rather than arms, with claws instead of nails, with small bright gold eyes and a beak, rather than soft human skin.

That, I think, is magic. The world, so ancient, and yet so new. We’ve discovered animals so small they can rest on a dime, or on your thumbnail, we’ve discovered animals where the males shrink to just their testes once they make contact with a female, we’ve found creatures that can see in more colours than our rainbow, and we’ve found creatures that can be sent to outer space, come back, and still live and breed.

That, I think, is real magic.

4

We know a lot about the life of Lucy, the famous fossil of Australopithecus afarensis —our ancient ancestor and bridge to the ape world.

Lucy was 3 feet tall; she lived in what is now Ethiopia and she walked upright. She ate leaves, grass and maybe nuts and seeds. She probably slept in a tree nest.

And now, after studying a 3-D scan of Lucy’s bones, scientists say they know something about her death. In a study published Monday in Nature, researchers at the University of Texas present evidence they say shows Lucy died after she fell out of a tree.

But other paleoanthropologists fired back, saying there was insufficient evidence to support the tree-fall theory.

Read more about the new theory here - and decide if you buy it!

Images: Wikimedia Commons; Marsha Miller/University of Texas, Austin; John Kappelman/Nature


TODAY’S GOOGLE DOODLE HONORS THE 41ST ANNIVERSARY OF THE DISCOVERY OF LUCY

‘Lucy’, is the name given to a collection of fossilized bones that once made up the skeleton of a hominid from the Australopithecus afarensis species, who lived in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago.

She was named after The Beatles song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’

After making the historic find, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson headed back to his campsite with his team.

He put a Beatles cassette in the tape player, and when Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds came on, one of the group said he should call the skeleton Lucy.

“All of a sudden, she became a person,” Johanson said in an interview with BBC.

Lately I haven’t been able to stop drawing great apes & fossil hominids. I draw them as one method of learning about them.

Here’s a little bit of me visually exploring probably the most culturally famous individual fossil hominid, an individual who lived about 3.2 million years ago on the land that is present-day Ethiopia, called “Lucy”, presumed female based on comparative pelvis physiology.

As part of the species afarensis in the group Australopithecus of the hominid family, “Lucy” was a close cousin of the family lines that all living humans descend from. Some earlier members of the group Australopithecus are ancestors of both “Lucy” and all humans. Lucy’s species, afarensis, is the closest relative of those common ancestors that we know of so far.

Lucy, the individual, was about 3 ft 7 in (1.1 m) tall, which seems very small to us but was not unusually short for members of the afarensis species. Generally speaking, members of the Australopithecus group had all the necessary hardware to walk upright, and probably did regularly.

More reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australopithecus_afarensis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(Australopithecus)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution

“So, I was working in the Hall of Human Origins today, right and this woman comes in and starts looking at the  Australopithecus afarensis, which is a couple in the exhibit. Everything was super chill, then all of the sudden she starts crying. Now, I’m like what the hell? She’s literally just looking at two furry hominids that are holding hands and walking. Seriously nothing to cry about. I go over to her and ask her what’s going on, if she’s okay, right. Well, she looks at me and is like “It’s just so beautiful.” Then she goes on this tangent about a story she created in her mind about how they loved each other and had this whole life together, which was so sweet that it caused her to cry. Well, then I started crying and the two of us were just in the middle of the exhibit laughing and crying over this ridiculous moment. But uh, that was my day. How was yours?”

Drew this some time in the middle of last year when I was just starting to learn how to draw in a comic style using pen and ink, and only managed to colour it in the past few days.

Whale evolution clockwise: Indohyus, Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rodhocetus, Dorudon, Mysticetes

Human evolution top to bottom: Dryopithecus, Australopithecus afarensis, Homo erectus, Neanderthal

New species of early human discovered near fossil of ‘Lucy’

Australopithecus deyiremeda lived about 3.4 million years ago in northern Ethiopia, around the same time and place as Australopithecus afarensis.

By Ewen Callaway

Welcome, Lucy’s neighbour. Fossilized jaws and teeth found1 in northern Ethiopia belong to an ancient human relative that researchers say lived around the same time as Lucy’s kind, Australopithecus afarensis, but is a distinct species. The remains of the new species, which has been dubbed Australopithecus deyiremeda and lived between 3.5 million and 3.3 million years ago, were uncovered just 35 kilometres from the Hadar site at which Lucy and other A. afarensis individuals were found. Fossils from A. afarensis date to between 3.7 million and 3 million years ago, so the two species would have overlapped (although Lucy herself may have lived too recently to see one).

The find suggests that several distinct hominins — species more closely related to humans than to chimps — roamed eastern Africa more than 3 million years ago. A third species, Kenyanthropus platyops, lived in what is now Kenya around the same time2. “The question that is going to come up is which taxa gave rise to our genus, Homo,” says Yohannes Haille-Selassie, a palaeoanthropologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio, whose team reports its discovery in Nature1. “That’s going to be the 64-million-dollar question.”

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3

Scientists have unearthed the jawbone of what they claim is one of the very first humans.

The 2.8 million-year-old specimen is 400,000 years older than researchers thought that our kind first emerged.

The discovery in Ethiopia suggests climate change spurred the transition from tree dweller to upright walker.

The head of the research team told BBC News that the find gives the first insight into “the most important transitions in human evolution”.

This is the most important transition in human evolutionProf Brian Villmoare, University of Nevada

Prof Brian Villmoare of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas said the discovery makes a clear link between an iconic 3.2 million-year-old hominin (human-like primate) discovered in the same area in 1974, called “Lucy”.

Could Lucy’s kind - which belonged to the speciesAustralopithecus afarensis - have evolved into the very first primitive humans?

“That’s what we are arguing,” said Prof Villmoare.

But the fossil record between the time period when Lucy and her kin were alive and the emergence of Homo erectus (with its relatively large brain and humanlike body proportions) two million years ago is sparse.

The 2.8 million-year-old lower jawbone was found in the Ledi-Geraru research area, Afar Regional State, by Ethiopian student Chalachew Seyoum. He told BBC News that he was “stunned” when he saw the fossil.

“The moment I found it, I realised that it was important, as this is the time period represented by few (human) fossils in Eastern Africa.”

The fossil is of the left side of the lower jaw, along with five teeth. The back molar teeth are smaller than those of other hominins living in the area and are one of the features that distinguish humans from more primitive ancestors, according to Professor William Kimbel, director of Arizona State University’s Institute of Human Origins.

These new studies challenge us to consider the very definition of what it is to be humanProf Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum, London

“Previously, the oldest fossil attributed to the genusHomo was an upper jaw from Hadar, Ethiopia, dated to 2.35m years ago,” he told BBC News.

“So this new discovery pushes the human line back by 400,000 years or so, very close to its likely (pre-human) ancestor. Its mix of primitive and advanced features makes the Ledi jaw a good transitional form between (Lucy) and later humans.”

A computer reconstruction of a skull belonging to the species Homo habilis, which has been published in Nature journal, indicates that it may well have been the evolutionary descendant of the species announced today.

The researcher involved, Prof Fred Spoor of University College London told BBC News that, taken together, the new findings had lifted a veil on a key period in the evolution of our species.

“By discovering a new fossil and re-analysing an old one we have truly contributed to our knowledge of our own evolutionary period, stretching over a million years that had been shrouded in mystery,” he said.

Climate change

The dating of the jawbone might help answer one of the key questions in human evolution. What caused some primitive ancestors to climb down from the trees and make their homes on the ground.

A separate study in Science hints that a change in climate might have been a factor. An analysis of the fossilised plant and animal life in the area suggests that what had once been lush forest had become dry grassland.

As the trees made way for vast plains, ancient human-like primates found a way of exploiting the new environmental niche, developing bigger brains and becoming less reliant on having big jaws and teeth by using tools.

Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London described the discovery as a “big story”.

He says the new species clearly does show the earliest step toward human characteristics, but suggests that half a jawbone is not enough to tell just how human it was and does not provide enough evidence to suggest that it was this line that led to us.

He notes that the emergence of human-like characteristics was not unique to Ethiopia.

“The human-like features shown by Australopithecus sediba in South Africa at around 1.95 million years ago are likely to have developed independently of the processes which produced (humans) in East Africa, showing that parallel origins are a distinct possibility,” Prof Stringer explained.

This would suggest several different species of humans co-existing in Africa around two million years ago with only one of them surviving and eventually evolving into our species, Homo sapiens. It is as if nature was experimenting with different versions of the same evolutionary configuration until one succeeded.

Prof Stringer added: “These new studies leave us with an even more complex picture of early humans than we thought, and they challenge us to consider the very definition of what it is to be human. Are we defined by our small teeth and jaws, our large brain, our long legs, tool-making, or some combination of these traits?”

Today’s Google Doodle is honoring the 41st anniversary of the discovery of the 3.2 million year old remains of AL 288-1 - better known as Lucy the Australopithecus afarensis near Hadar, Ethiopia where her skeleton is also know as Dinkinesh (Amharic for “You are wonderful”).

On November 24th, 1974, as dusk settled upon the southern edge of the Afar Triangle near a village called Hadar, a team of scientists organized by Yves Coppens, Maurice Taieb and Donald Johanson toasted a tremendous discovery. They had been scouring this region for weeks–an area Taieb had brought to the forefront of anthropological research years earlier–and that morning their search paid enormous dividends with the find of Dr. Johanson and his student Tom Gray. The skeletal fragments unearthed in the Ethiopian landscape made up the most complete example of Australopithecus afarensis ever found.

While they celebrated, a small tape recorder blared ”Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, again and again. And then it struck someone–what finer name than Lucy for the incredible specimen pulled from the sand that day?

In the coming months and years, this find would upend our understanding of bipedalism, and rewrite a significant chapter in the story of human evolution. To recognize the 41st anniversary of this historic moment, Kevin Laughlin has brought Lucy and her upright gait to life on our homepage.

Today is the 41st anniversary of the discovery of “Lucy,” one of the most complete skeletons of early hominids found to date. 

This artist’s reconstruction shows how Lucy might have looked in life. The skeleton cast is on display in the Museum’s Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, and consists of bones from a single individual, presumably female, who stood well under 4 feet (1.2 m) tall. 

Members of Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, lived in eastern Africa, where they ventured down from the trees and roamed the grassy woodlands. Studies of the skeleton have shown that Lucy walked upright like modern humans, on two limbs rather than on four. But her short legs, small brain, and cone-shaped rib cage more closely resembles those of apes. The discovery and subsequent study of Lucy revealed that human ancestors were walking on two feet before taking the major evolutionary step of developing larger brains, and well before the earliest stone tools came into use. 

The 3.18-million-year-old Lucy was named after the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which the researchers listened to as they celebrated their remarkable find.

See more from the Hall of Human Origins.

The Leatoli Footprints and Early Human Ancestors

In 1978 a team led by British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey found trace fossils of animal footprints left in ash several million years old.  Searching further, Leakey’s team found the oldest trace fossils of early hominids in Leatoli, about 30 miles south of the famed Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.  The footprints are though to come from three individuals from the australopithecus afarensis family.  Like the pithecanthropus (see recent post here), the australopithecus was named under the assumption that it represented a missing link between humans and primates.  The name australopithecus comes from the Latin word australis meaning south and the Ancient Greek word pithekos meaning ape.  The name was given that same year by Donald Wilson and Tim White, who found fragments two thousand miles north of the Leatoli site in the Afar region of Ethiopia, hence afarensis.

Happy Birthday, Mary Leakey, born on this day, February 6, 1913.

Shout out to my little man, Rowan, another Ethiopian treasure!

Photo via J. Paul Getty Trust, copyright 1995.

A recent find in Ethiopia, of a homo erectus jawbone dating to 2.8 million years ago, moves the timeline of when humans’ ancestors came out of the trees and started walking upright. The jawbone, you see, is 400,000 years older than previous estimates. It is also much closer to Lucy, the famous Australopithecus afarensis which lived around 3.4 million years ago. This helps fill in the previously mysterious 2 million year gap between Lucy and the first evidence of homo erectus.

The Leatoli Footprints and Early Human Ancestors

In 1978 a team led by British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey found trace fossils of animal footprints left in ash several million years old.  Searching further, Leakey’s team found the oldest trace fossils of early hominids in Leatoli, about 30 miles south of the famed Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.  The footprints are though to come from three individuals from the australopithecus afarensis family.  Like the pithecanthropus (see recent post here), the australopithecus was named under the assumption that it represented a missing link between humans and primates.  The name australopithecus comes from the Latin word australis meaning south and the Ancient Greek word pithekos meaning ape.  The name was given that same year by Donald Wilson and Tim White, who found fragments two thousand miles north of the Leatoli site in the Afar region of Ethiopia, hence afarensis

Happy Birthday, Mary Leakey, born on this day, February 6, 1913.

Shout out to my little man, Rowan, another Ethiopian treasure! 

Photo via J. Paul Getty Trust, copyright 1995.