Lovejoy Helps Unveil Oldest Hominid Skeleton That Revises Thinking on Human Evolution
Lovejoy and other experts estimate that "Ardi" lived 4.4 million years ago.
Throw out all those posters and books that depict an ape evolving into a human being, says Dr. C. Owen Lovejoy, distinguished University Professor. An internationally recognized biological anthropologist who specializes in the study of human origins, Lovejoy is one of the primary authors who revealed their research findings today on Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominid species that lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia.
“People often think we evolved from apes. But no — apes, in many ways, evolved from us,” Lovejoy says. “It has been a popular idea to think humans are modified chimpanzees. From studying Ardipithecus ramidus, or ‘Ardi,’ we learn that we cannot understand or model human evolution from chimps and gorillas.”
A special issue of Science (www.sciencemag.org) will feature 11 papers that are the first formal description of “Ardi,” a partial skeleton believed to have been female. Lovejoy was first author on five papers and contributed to an additional three. For the past seven years, he has been a part of a major international research effort studying “Ardi,” serving as post-cranial anatomist and behavioral theorist.
One of Lovejoy’s most recognized achievements is the reconstruction of the skeleton of “Lucy,” a fossil of a human ancestor that walked upright more than three million years ago.
When comparing “Ardi” to “Lucy,” Lovejoy said that working on “Ardi” was much more exciting and interesting. “She provides real answers,” he says.
A resident of Kent, Lovejoy has taught at Kent State for 40 years. He is a widely published author, with more than 100 articles in prestigious publications. He also holds the honor of being one of the Institute for Scientific Information’s “Most Highly Cited” authors in social sciences. In 2007, he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for excellence in original scientific research. Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist in the United States.
Watch a video of Lovejoy discussing the research findings of Ardipithecus ramidus in this week's multimedia feature.
A Discovery Channel special will air Oct. 11 at 9 p.m. that will feature Lovejoy and Kent State.