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On October 1, 2009, paleontologists formally announced the discovery of the relatively complete Ardipithecus ramidus fossil skeleton first unearthed in 1994. The fossil is the remains of a small-brained 50-kilogram (110 lb) female, nicknamed "Ardi", and includes most of the skull and teeth, as well as the pelvis, hands, and feet. It was discovered in Ethiopia's harsh Afar desert at a site called Aramis in the Middle Awash region. Radiometric dating of the layers of volcanic ash encasing the deposits revealed that Ardi lived 4.4 million years ago.
Researchers infer from the form of her pelvis and limbs and the presence of her abductable hallux, that she was a facultative biped: bipedal when moving on the ground, but quadrupedal when moving about in tree branches. A. ramidus had a more primitive walking ability than later hominids, and could not walk or run for long distances. The teeth suggest omnivory, and are more generalised than those of modern apes.
Ardipithecus is a very early hominin genus. Two species are described in the literature: A. ramidus, which lived about 4.4 million years ago during the early Pliocene, and A. kadabba, dated to approximately 5.6 million years ago (late Miocene.
See the October 2, 2009, issue of Science for full discription and details.
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