3.3 million years old, 3 years old

Say hello to Selam, or DIK-1-1, a new and very well preserved member of the family discovered in Dikika, Ethiopia. She belongs to the species Australopithicus afarensis and is being called Lucy's little sister.

i-e45e827a198c79097f0d6b1fbf5950ec-selam.jpg

She was only a toddler when she died about 3.3 million years ago, and from the teeth the authors estimate that she was about 3 years old. Most of the skeleton is intact, but doesn't seem to have yet been fully extracted from the matrix.

Some of the surprises: the hyoid bone is chimpanzee-like, and implies chimp-like vocalization abilities. She had a long way to go before she could have a conversation. The fingers are long and curved, and the scapula is more gorilla-like than ours; there is a suggestion of better arboreal ability than we have.


Alemseged Z, Spoor F, Kimbel WH, Bobe R, Geraads D, Reed D, Wynn JG (2006) A juvenile early hominin skeleton from Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature 443:296-301.

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Hello!

...is being called Lucy's little sister.

National Geographic is calling her Lucy's Baby. If both are true, then it is a sign of some odd incestuous goings on in the stone age.

Great: now you've got two MORE gaps to fill.
Seriously, how cool is it to find an almost complete 3 million year old skeleton? I can't find books in my library when I need them; maybe I should bury everything for awhile and dig 'em up later.

Are you dissin' my aboreal ability?

[A]nd a little child shall lead them.*

...Into the godless hell that is atheistic Darwinian evolutionary bla bla bla.

Lucy Jr. is a compelling find. It'll be interesting to see what tack the goddish crowd takes in trying to deny it.

====

* Isaiah 11:6. Bible-literate atheists are fun, huh?

Dr. Myers, you had a recent post about perils posed to precious finds in Kenia from some church groups. While this is a different country, I hope the fossils are safe?

By mndarwinist (not verified) on 20 Sep 2006 #permalink

Judges 15:15

And he found a new jawbone of an afarensis, and put forth his hand, and took it, and smote a thousand creationist strawmen therewith...

/yes, yes they are

She was only a toddler when she died ... she was about 3 years old

possibly one of our ancestors

Probably not! :-D

If Lucy was just an immature monkey with rickets, is this an even more immature chimp with super-rickets?

Paleoanthropologist is probably my #1 favorite thing-I-always-wished-I-could-be-but-couldn't,-dammit.

Oh well. I guess it's easier just reading about it.

On another site, I saw it referred to as "Lucy's Baby," and I said, "If she's not actually that fossil's child, that's some serious bullshit nomenclature."

Some of the surprises: the hyoid bone is chimpanzee-like... The fingers are long and curved, and the scapula is more gorilla-like than ours...

What on earth is surprising about any of that? The damn thing's 3.2 million years old - you'd expect it to exhibit ape-like features, surely. It would be a lot more surprising if it had cute blonde curls and wore diapers.

I wonder what the IDiots are going to say about this.

Here's the answer --

Hello!
...is being called Lucy's little sister.
National Geographic is calling her Lucy's Baby. If both are true, then it is a sign of some odd incestuous goings on in the stone age.

Clearly, the australopithicines were satanists.

By SkookumPlanet (not verified) on 20 Sep 2006 #permalink

Gosh, that's a beautiful skull. So complete.

By three years old, do they mean three chronological years (perhaps tied to growth markings or some such) or the equivalent of a human's three years? Because if it's the former...that would imply that australopithecines were already approaching a lifespan similar to an anatomically modern human's, wouldn't it? Intriguing. ^.^

"If both are true, then it is a sign of some odd incestuous goings on in the stone age."

If I remember well, Eve had only male chidren, so of course there was incest going on... May be that was the "péché originel" (how do you say that in english ?)?

Whoa.

Check out that occipito-bregmatic diameter.

That neck better be flexed during delivery - or else.

Age at death was determined using the African ape model of tooth development. We know from studies of dental, facial and limb growth that early hominins, like A. afarensis, likely had short developmental periods more similar to the African great apes rather than to modern humans.

Also, yeah, have to agree with chris y that a chimp-like hyoid is not surprising at all. In your standard palaeoanth textbook A. afarensis is usually described as having chimp-like craniodental features.

Most contemporary hypotheses of hominin evolution, that I know of at least, view afarensis as a sister taxon to all later hominins. Even if A. afarensis is not our direct ancestor they are still a pretty cool species!

I hope people are not seriously upset by the nicknames that have been given to DIK-1-1. Calling her "Lucy Jr." or "Lucy's little sister" are just means of capturing the public's attention and imagination; always a good thing imho.

Sorry for my bullet-point rant! I am a masters student in palaeoanthropology and my thesis is due next week. This is my version of taking a break. Love the site.

From the AP: "Judging by how well it was preserved, the skeleton may have come from a body that was quickly buried by sediment in a flood, the researchers said."

I am certain that creationists will claim this as evidence for the global flood. If you resist the urge to knee them in the crotch, simply respond by saying that this is definitive evidence that their god is a ruthless baby killer.

Well my Ethiopian friend who is getting his chemistry Ph.D. is a bit pissed that the West is so fixated on the missing link in his country, while those still alive are starving, etc.

Why doesn't science get its priorities straight? Because science is imperialism.

I believe Lucy came 100,000 years later than this new discovery. Which makes Lucy the baby.

The brain case is amazing.

Odds are she could have learned sign language.

"The specimen, which is the oldest and most complete juvenile of a human relative ever found, has features that stand as striking examples of part-way evolution between primitive apes and modern humans."

There has to be a better way to say that that doesn't sound so anthropocentrically bent (to me at least).

Well, it indicates design, that's for sure. Indicates it, but doesn't really tell us anything about how, why, or for what reason humans were designed in steps, and killed off and redesigned using only the information and material available from these sadly killed-off designs.

___________________________________________________________

In a sense it may even be true that the purpose of a design would not have to be known for it to be designated as "designed". That is, if these organisms displayed rational design, instead of conservatively derived adaptations, we might know nothing of their purpose or goal, yet we'd have reason to think that rational design nevertheless indicates a purpose.

What is so very bizarre from a scientific standpoint, however, is that there is absolutely no curiosity about the whys and hows of purported "design". We might identify an alien design someday, in fact, without knowing its purpose or aim. Yet we'd do our very best to find out the whys and hows of said alien design, since merely identifying design would be extremely poor as the only scientific conclusion, no matter how correct it might be.

And I should point out that this latest find could not be identified as an alien design in any way. First, the rational design of known intelligent minds is missing. That's true for all of their examples of biological "design", though. The second reason is that no known designers would produce their "machines" by making intermediate forms for a few million years in such a ponderously slow process, even if they were indifferent to the misery and death entailed in the elimination of the obsolete forms.

OK, it's the bleeding obvious. I only mention it because a number of folk on their side continue to fail to grasp anything obvious in biology. And they cling to ID because they haven't the faintest conception of science's desire to understand processes.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

There has to be a better way to say that

How about: "between primitive ur-apes and modern human-apes" (though I'm not sure about the appropriateness or necessity of adding "ur-").

"I am certain that creationists will claim this as evidence for the global flood."
I've already seen one do it, though he did it indirectly...

"We know from studies of dental, facial and limb growth that early hominins, like A. afarensis, likely had short developmental periods more similar to the African great apes rather than to modern humans."

Similar, but it is also said that:
"The Dikika girl had an estimated brain size of 330 cubic centimetres when she died, which is not very different from that of a similarly aged chimpanzee. However, when compared to the adult afarensis values, it forms 63 - 88% of the adult brain size.

This is lower than that of an adult chimp, where by the age of three, over 90% of the brain is formed. This relatively slow brain growth in the Dikika girl appears to be slightly closer to that of humans.

Slow, gradual development in an extended childhood is regarded as a very human trait - probably to enable our higher functions to develop." ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5363328.stm )

I believe this chimp size child brain was predicted by the pelvic size of Lucy et al. Cool!

By Torbjörn Larsson (not verified) on 21 Sep 2006 #permalink

I agree that "ur-" is either not necessary or not the right way to go. I was thinking either "pre-human ape" or "ape-ancestor" as possibilities.

I think the idea of the "human-ape" is the next wall that needs to be traversed in popular culture. Virtually everyone will agree that humans are animals (and also mammals). That was step #1. And I think most people will agree that humans are primates. The evidence of this is the use of the term "non-human primate" in popular liturature (step #2). But I have yet to see a mainstream journalist use the term "non-human ape." That's the step we're taking now.

My other problem is with the word "primitive." I understand that primitive means "came first" (just as advanced means "has moved on"). But in popular nomenclature (in biology as well as for "societies" and "cultures"), primitive means "less like us" and advanced means "more like us." I know that's not what the writers of the Nature press release meant, but for some reason, it still bothers me.

Yeah, Science Pundit, "primitive" vs. "advanced" was bugging me too as I wrote my dissertation, which contained a lot of comparative material so this locution was coming up a lot. One of my committee members, Billie Swalla, suggested a good way around the problem: "basal" and "derived" are not just a lot less loaded, they're also more accurate than the other terms in indicating divergence. The literature still uses the previous terms a lot, though.

Gosh, that's a beautiful skull. So complete.

I hope you don't use that line on your dates.

I think the idea of the "human-ape" is the next wall that needs to be traversed in popular culture. Virtually everyone will agree that humans are animals (and also mammals). That was step #1. And I think most people will agree that humans are primates. The evidence of this is the use of the term "non-human primate" in popular liturature (step #2). But I have yet to see a mainstream journalist use the term "non-human ape." That's the step we're taking now.

That's what I don't get. If chimps and gorillas are both apes, and chimps are more closely related to us than they are to gorillas, doesn't that mean that we're apes?

I know some people say we're apes, but so far I haven't seen any indication that this is the scientific consensus.

If it isn't WHY isn't it? I'm not saying there might not be some logical scientific reason, I'm almost completely ignorant about such things... but if there is a reason, what is it?

They find. They Speak. Everyone is in Awe. Things are no [sic] always as they seem.

The curator of the Lost Mind Museum has spoken.

Lost Mind Museum mission statement:

The mission of the Lost Mind Museum is to present the greatest evidence ever assembled which validates the creation account found in the book of Genesis.

We will explore past archeological finds and perhaps offer an alternative explanation as we present: the Giants of the pre-flood world, the remnants of ancient technology, the existence of Noah's Ark, evidence for a worldwide flood, anomalous fossils and out of place artifacts.

We will use the creative marketing techniques of P.T. Barnum to arrest the public's attention while providing the resources to answer that age-old question:
"Is it Apes, Aliens or Adam?"

By Bezumniy Ivan (not verified) on 21 Sep 2006 #permalink

"We will use the creative marketing techniques of P.T. Barnum to arrest the public's attention"

Is it just me, or isn't that pretty much an admission that they're just full of shit?

Well, Craig, you know what The Man said: There's a sucker born again every minute.

As for Selam, she may be dead as a doornail, but at least she's got her head out of the sand.

Another question: how exactly do they determine that a pre-pubescent skeleton is male or female?

"Nat, Eve had daughters, too, 3 daughters, and 3 sons...
I think Cain's wife/sister's name was Zilla"
Ah, ok, fine, I never took time to read the Bible anyway. But between sisters and brothers, still an incest, no ?

Craig, most paleoanthropologists recognize that the great apes (orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees), long placed in a seperate family the pongids, should now be placed together with humans (both modern and archaic) within the hominid family that was previously reserved for us and our direct and indirect bipedal ancestors. The use of the term hominid to refer to human ancestors after we split with the ancestors of chimps, has now been replaced with the term hominin. Whether we accept the great apes into our family or refer to ourselves as "the third chimpanzee", "the naked ape" or the "bipedal ape" makes no difference. What is important is that we now understand the closeness of our relationship to the great apes. We are them and they are us. This is now an accepted fact within anthropology. In my classes I tell students that I will not take offense if they call me a big bald ape, in fact I take it as a complement!

Is it Apes, Aliens or Adam? Ask some questions about this fossil before you bask in its "truth" i.e. you came from an apelike creature. My questions would be: Where was the fossil found? When? By whom? How deep? What strata? What other fossils were found? And I mean ALL the fossils. Was it intact as shown or was there reconstruction done? If reconstructed, how many possible variations could the final skull have looked like?
What method(s) of dating were used? How many dates were produced? What range of dates? Any dates rejected? Why?

You know you can still believe in evolution while questioning the evidence, methods and conclusions.