The Missing Link?
by Laurence D Smart B.Sc.Agr., Dip.Ed., Grad.Dip.Ed
[Free to print and distribute. Copy must be in full.]
What was Written
- "[Ramidus] lies extremely close to the divergence between the lineages leading to the African apes and modern humans ..." S. Begley, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5940), p:76 1994
- "Ramidus confirms once and for all that the common ancestor lived a little more than 4.4 million years ago." S. Begley, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5940), p:76 1994
- "Darwin was right: humans evolved from on African ape." T.D. White, quoted in S. Begley, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5940), p:76 1994
- "... so perfectly positioned between humans and apes that Darwin must be smiling in his crypt." S. Begley, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5940), p:76 1994
- The popular press hailed the find as the missing link between apes and humans.
- "... the missing link is no longer missing ..." The Canberra Times, April 11, p:7 1995
- Called "the most ancient human species known." The Adelaide Advertiser, September 9, 1994
What was Found
- Specimens found at Middle Awash, Aramis, northern Ethiopia in late 1992 and 1993
(after Fig 1 Perspectives, CEN Tech. J., 8(2), p: 129 1994)
- Pieces of fossil were found at 17 different spots.
- These were more likely 17 individuals
- "... teeth, arm bones and parts of a skull and jaw that turned out to belong to 17 individuals." S. Begley, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5940), p:76 1994
- Fragments were spread over 1.55 Km.
- 30% of the fossils were primates.
- The holotype (ARA-VP-6/1) was constructed solely from 8 damaged teeth.
- Other fossil fragments said to be from Australopithecus ramidus were: part of a skull base; and a fragment of arm bone.
- The skull base was found 550 m away from the eight teeth.
- The arm bone was found 270 m away from the eight teeth.
- Eleven of the other fossil fragments were; single teeth; a piece of tooth; and a piece of bone.
- The holotype and a tooth found 1.55 Km away differ significantly - different species?
Ethiopian discovery sites for the Lucy and Ramidus holotype fossils
The teeth and jawbone of ramidus child - The material that the holotype was based on.
[after photo in Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5940), 1994]
What was the Analysis
- "... - Adults would have weighed 65 pounds and stood four feet tall ..." S. Begley, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5940), p:76 1994
- The variety of teeth is said to represent sexual dimorphism.
- Sexual dimorphism can't be proved from the fragments found.
- The fossils were not classified as a chimpanzee or a known Australopithecine.
- The hominid characters are said to have been determined from: a modified canine/3rd molar complex of teeth; parts of a foramen magnum; and the elbow end of an ulna.
- Said to be in-between apes and humans because the enamel thickness is in-between the two. T.D. White et al, Nature, Vol 371, p:310 1994
- Wood described the specimen as more probably a chimpanzee than an Australopithecine. B. Wood, Nature, Vol. 371, p:281 1994
- Cranial fossils are "strikingly chimpanzee-like". T.D. White et al, Nature, Vol 371, p:310 1994
- The arm bones show "a host of characters usually associated with modern apes." T.D. White et al Nature, Vol 371, p:311 1994
- The canine teeth are similar to ancestral apes.
- The modified canine teeth look like a chimpanzee canine and has similar chimpanzee enamel thickness. T.D. White et al, Nature, Vol 371, p:308 1994
- The thick tooth enamel is like a chimpanzee's, not Australopithecine.
- Ramidus has similar traits to Lucy.
- All hominid specimens were surface finds. T.D. White et al, Nature, Vol 371, p:306 1994
- Surface bones are said to have eroded where they were found.
- Surface bones cannot be dated by the surface rocks.
- The estimated age of ramidus is 4.4 million years old.
- Estimated dates were first made using biochronological comparisons (fossil fauna comparisons)
- This was the starting point for other dating methods.
- Radiometric dating and geochemical analysis are said to have agreed with the biochronological date.
- The dating of Ethiopian rocks is not accurate - specimens could be 0.5 million years over-estimated. J. Kappelman & J. Fleagle, Nature, Vol. 376, p:558-559 1995
- The specimens could therefore be contemporaneous with Lucy. J. Kappelman & J. Fleagle, Nature, Vol. 376, p:558-559 1995
- Ramidus is claimed to be bipedal.
- Bipedalism is based on the 2 small fragments of the foramen magnum
- "A forward opening for the spine at the base of the skull and canine teeth smaller than apes' are both typical of later creatures that walked on two feet. Moreover, ramidus' arm wasn't built for swinging through trees." S. Begley, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5940), p:76 1994
- No leg, feet or hip bones have been found.
- Bipedalism has not been proved. T.D. White et al, Nature, Vol 371, p:312 1994
- Ramidus had an advantage over the apes because of the way they raised their families. [see next point]
- "For the new species suggests that, at the dawn of humanity, what made us become different from the apes was a better way of raising a family." S. Begley, Bulletin/ Newsweek, 116 (5940), p:76 1994
- "So females must not have chosen mates based on how convincingly they bared their teeth at rivals, ... Instead, females sought out mates who could help care for offspring" S. Begley, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5940), p:76 1994
What was the Conclusion
- It was said in a Nature editorial "The attractive epithet of the 'missing link' had better be avoided until it is possible to answer with some clarity the question "With what?"" editorial, Nature, Vol. 371, p:270 1994
- Australopithecus ramidus was renamed Ardipithecus ramidus in 1995. T.D. White et al, Nature, Vol 375, p:88 1995
- By 1995 Ardipithecus ramidus had been removed from the line of human evolution. G. Cowley & A. Salzhauer, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5985), p:65 1995
What has Happened Since
- Meave Leakey has since constructed an individual named Australopithecus anamensis from 21 bone fragments found on the opposite side of Lake Turkana.
- A. anamensis has been estimated to be 4.2 mil yrs old.
- A. anamensis is more ape-like than Lucy.
- A. anamensis is now claimed to be the link between apes and humans. G. Cowley & A. Salzhauer, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5985), p:65 1995
- "... it appears that the Leakey team has found Lucy's true grandparents." G. Cowley & A. Salzhauer, Bulletin/Newsweek, 116 (5985), p:65 1995
What Should we Believe
- The species A. Ramidus has not been proven to have existed.
- The fragments most likely represent a mosaic of different species.
- Ramidus is not the missing link between apes and humans.
NOTE: As palaeontologists admit that no fossil chimpanzees have been found, maybe they have been found and all classified as missing links in the evolution of humans?
CEN. Tech. J., Vol. 10, No. 1, p:10-13 1996
CEN. Tech. J., Vol. 10, No. 2, p:237-238 1996
CEN. Tech. J., Vol. 8, No. 2, p:129-130 1994