Lucy, Ardi … what’s next?

Kristine Gill

Lovejoy has a new skeleton hiding in his closet

Owen Lovejoy, Kent State professor of anthropology, is attempting to identify a new set of fossils with another anthropologist. Shayne Painter | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

He’s working on another one. Professor Owen Lovejoy and Yohannes Haile-Selassie, two of the anthropologists who worked on Ardi, are working to identify another set of fossils.

They call this skeleton KSD, which stands for three geological terms even Lovejoy admits he can’t spell. What he does know is this skeleton is either of the Australopithecus afarensis or Australopithecus anamensis species.

“It’s younger than Ardi, but older than Lucy,” Lovejoy said.

Haile-Selassie found the remains in Ethiopia three years ago, and Lovejoy has been studying some of the casts. Once they’ve determined which species the fossils belong to, they can submit papers on their findings for publication by early January.

“Every time you get a new (set of fossils) you get parts you never had before,” Lovejoy said. “You get variations that you never had before, and it really adds to our completeness and understanding.”

When he’s not teaching or working on KSD, Lovejoy is busy with another project. This one involves studying the knees of modern-day mammals. He’s working with Freddie Fu of the orthopedic department at the University of Pittsburgh.

Why take on a project about knees?

“The more you know about anything, the better off you are,” Lovejoy said.

Contact newsroom coordinator Kristine Gill at [email protected]

Other members of the ‘Ardi’ team

Tim White

Education: Ph.D. in biological anthropology

Current occupation: Professor at UC Berkeley

Contribution to the Ardi project: Did field and laboratory work

How he got involved: White was one of the co-leaders who began the project in 1981.

What Ardi means for our understanding of who we are as humans: “Most basically, Ardipithecus allows us to understand how we evolved.”

Evan Bailey

Education: Bachelor’s in advertising; pursuing a masters in media management.

Current Occupation: Production manager for the Office of Student Media

Contribution to the Ardi project: Bailey helped Lovejoy put some of his ideas into graphic form, making tables, graphs and illustrations.

How he got involved: Bailey has known Lovejoy since he was a kid and has helped him with other projects. His mother, Linda Spurlock, is also the second author on one of the papers.

What Ardi means for our understanding of who we are as humans: “I think one of the most interesting things about Ardi actually is once you know about that fossil, you know a lot about that time period surrounding the fossil itself.”

Linda Spurlock

Education: Ph.D. in biomedical science at Kent State

Current occupation: Director of human health at Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Contribution to the Ardi project: Spurlock used clay and plaster to make 11 different versions of the left hipbone. She sent her version to members of the project, and then took their comments to sculpt new ones, getting closer and closer to what it would have looked like. It took seven years to achieve an accurate re-creation.

How she got involved: As a teacher of anthropology for more than 20 years and a facial reconstruction artist, Spurlock had “a good combination of scientific and artistic background” for the project.

What Ardi means for our understanding of who we are as humans: “I would say it means that no matter what you expect, that the fossil record’s always going to have some surprises. You know it’s human nature to predict what we’ll find, what will it look like, but just be ready to be wrong.”

Scott Simpson

Education: Ph.D. at Kent State in school of biomedical sciences; specialty in biological anthropology

Current occupation: Associate professor in department of anatomy at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Contribution to the Ardi project: Simpson participated in the surveys that found the first Ardi fossils, and he helped excavate them. He was also part of the analysis team that looked at the upper limb and dead tissue of Ardipithecus. He worked with project members, especially Lovejoy, to reconstruct what Ardi would have looked like.

How he got involved: Lovejoy was Simpson’s Ph.D. adviser and knew of his background and field work, so he introduced Simpson to some of the principle investigators.

What Ardi means for our understanding of who we are as humans: “We’re finding this ancestor that has both a hand in the trees and a foot on the ground, and it’s a very unusual type of mixed anatomical body form that we’ve just never seen before . What’s also very curious about this whole thing is we never would have predicted what Ardipithecus looked like. It’s the closest we’re ever going to get to a time machine.”

Bruce Latimer

Education: Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from Kent State, master’s from Case Western and master’s from the University of Arizona

Current occupation:? Associate professor in anthropology and anatomy at Case Western

Contribution to the Ardi project:Latimer was in the field with Yohannes Haile-Selassie and Scott Simpson when Ardi was found. He also did a lot of work and research on foot.

How he got involved: Latimer started working as a graduate student on the Lucy project and then continued on to work with Tim White.

What Ardi means for our understanding of who we are as humans: “(It tells us) chimpanzees have evolved at least as much as we have. So a chimpanzee makes a very poor model for an early human ancestor, and we didn’t know that. Now we do. So it really means going back and rewriting chapters and rethinking papers.”

Yohannes Haile-Selassie

Education: B.A. in history from the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, master’s in Anthropology and Ph.D. in integrative biology from UC of Berkeley

Current occupation: Curator and head of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Contribution to the Ardi project: Since 1993, most of Haile-Selassie’s contribution has been faunal identification. He discovered older hominids and named a new species, Ardipithecus Kadabba.

How he got involved: He began in 1991 as a member of the Middle Awash Project, which searches for fossils in Ethiopia.

What Ardi means for our understanding of who we are as humans: “Ardipithecus Ramidus, particularly ‘Ardi,’ effectively tested some of the outstanding hypotheses in our evolutionary history.”