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Exploradio Origins sparks ideas and conversation with its unique and engaging 90 second nutshell approach. Each episode highlights the work of one of the more than 200 fellows at the Institute for the Science of Origins at Case Western Reserve University.

Exploradio Origins: Lucy's Ancient Cousin Ardi

A photo of a replica of Lucy's skeleton.
A replica of Lucy's skeleton.

“People always want to know where they came from, right? They get excited by new discoveries of dinosaurs, but they become curious by the discovery of early human fossils.” 

Yohannes Haile-Selassie is a curator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and is a paleoanthropologist studying human evolution. As a graduate student in 1994, he was part of a group searching for fossils in Ethiopia’s Middle Awash region, and found a small, delicate fragment of a hand bone. This fragment lead to the discovery of a 4.4 million-year-old skeleton that would change the earlier chapters of human origins.

Ardipithecus ramidus is the species name, but the skeleton was nicknamed Ardi,” Haile-Selassie said.

You may have heard of our most famous ancestor, the 3.2 million year old hominid skeleton named Lucy. Her species was the earliest known hominid species for two decades, but then Ardi turned out to be much older.

“The discovery of Ardi has informed us we should even expect more primitive things that came before her. And that's what happened,” Haile-Selassie said, "We had  Ardipithecus kadabba from Middle Awash.  There was also another discovery from Chad, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, close to 6.5 to 6 million years ago. So, we now know that the human lineage is really, really ancient.” 

Kellen McGee is currently pursuing a PhD in nuclear and accelerator physics at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2014. She’s held a number of research positions, ultimately becoming a research assistant in a biophysics and structural biology lab at Case Western Reserve University. There, the Institute for the Science of Origins instantly became her intellectual home. Central to the ISO’s mission is science communication.