New Perceived "Ape-Man" Discovery Leaves Numerous
 Questions Unanswered

by Patrick Young, Ph.D.

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  Introduction

In early July of 2001, news spread around the scientific world proclaiming the discovery of a new hominid species in Ethiopia. National Geographic News employed the headline; "Fossils from Ethiopia may be Earliest Human Ancestor 1. Energy Science News titled their article, "Earliest Hominid Discovery Not the Missing Link – But Close"2. Time Magazine ran an article with a creative drawing of the new "Ape Man" and titled it "The Dawn of Man"3.

The excitement centered on the excavation and discovery of fossil remains that may be attributed to a new subspecies of hominid 4. The creature, titled Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba lived, according to the authors, between 5.2 and 5.8 million years ago. The previous record holder is ~ 1.5 million years younger and evolutionists say, this establishes the creature very close to the time humans and apes diverged from their common ancestor.

The area of discovery was in the eastern portion of Ethiopia called the Middle Awash Valley. This region, between the main Ethiopian rift and Afar rift appears to have been a particularly active volcanic and tectonic zone in the past and has been a fruitful site for fossil discovery over the years 5.

Data

One of the discoverers, Yohannes Haile-Selassie, reported the excavation of teeth, a partial mandible, foot phalanx, partial clavicle, a left humerus and ulna, and a distal humerus 6. From this extremely fragmented assemblage of remains, which contains no critical cranial bones, Time Magazine created a suprisingly complete picture of the creature and labeled him an ape-man.

The previous record holder, a 4.4 million-year-old hominid called Ardipithecus ramidus was discovered in the same area in the 1990’s. Haile-Selassie decided on the basis of fragmentary data, to classify his new creature as a subspecies of ramidus. This conclusion in itself is precarious because, even by the evolutionists standard, these creatures lived ~1.5 million years apart.

The Time Magazine article stated, " …kadabba almost certainly walked upright much of the time. The 2.5-cm-long toe bone makes that clear" 7. According to this article, the entire determination of bipedality and hence qualifying this as a hominid rests on a single toe bone!

A closer look at the subject article published in Nature reveals curious information considered of secondary importance to the news media. Table I presents the fossils, date of discovery, and the site where each of the remains were excavated.

Table I*

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Specimen Number Year Collected Element  Location
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AME-VP-1/71 1999 Proximal Foot Phalanx Amba East
ALA-VP-2/10  1997-99 Right Mandible and Teeth Alayla
ALA-VP-2/11 1997 Hand Phalanx Alayla
ALA-VP-2/101 1999 Left humeus and Ulna Alayla
ASK–VP-3/78 1998 Distal humerus Asa Koma
ASK-VP-3/160 2001 LP3 Asa Koma
DID-VP-1/80 1998 Hand Phalanx Digiba Dora
STD-VP-2/61 1998 R Saitune Dora
STD-VP-2/62 1998 LM3 Saitune Dora
STD-VP-2/63 1998 LM1 Saitune Dora
STD-VP-2/893 1998 Clavicle Fragment Saitune Dora
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* After Haile-Selassie 4

Not only were these fossils discovered five years apart, they were excavated from six different areas in the Middle Awash of Ethiopia. Furthermore, the infamous toe bone (Proximal Foot Phalanx) confirming this creature to be bipedal, is the lone fossil excavated in Amba East. Maps of the Middle Awash valley area confirm Amba East is ~10 miles from all other discovery sites (Figure 1). It is curious how anyone could surmise all these remains were fragments of the same subspecies.

Figure 1


(Click on image to see larger version)

There is also some dispute in dating these fossils. Besides the obvious issues with the validity of radiometric dating, it appears the toe bone (Foot Phalanx) dates 200,000 years younger than all other remains 8. Even by evolutionary standards, the magnitude of this time difference, draws into serious question the conclusions published about this creature.

Hominids

Any discussion such as this would be incomplete without addressing a few general issues associated with the evolutionary creature called hominid. The term hominid is usually intended to describe any of the modern or extinct bipedal primates of the family Hominidae, including all species of the genus Homo and Australopithecus. It is strictly an evolutionist term describing humans and their perceived more primitive ancestors. Realistically, the term means little to a non-evolutionist because the human ancestral status of these creatures is rejected in the creationist model. Although there are several differences between modern humans and their perceived ancestors, the primary focus will be on locomotion characteristics.

The super-family Hominoidea encompasses all the apes and humans (Figure 2). Several primary characteristics include an orthograde posture (semi-erect), absence of a tail, arms longer than legs (except for humans). Participants in this group could either be bipedal, arboreal and / or quadruped. Possessing longer arms than legs along with an orthograde posture is considered a necessary adaptation for arm swinging and brachiation. 

The Hominoidea super-family separates into the three primary families, Hylobatidae (gibbons), Pongidae (orangutans, gorillas, chimps), and Hominidae (the genus Homo (humans) and Australopithecus). Gibbons demonstrate locomotion repertoires that are brachiating (primary) and habitual biped (secondary) when terrestrial. Gorillas and chimps are considered quadruped (primary) and secondarily, arboreal / sometimes bipedal. Orangutans are primarily arboreal with quadruped and bipedal as secondary locomotion patterns 9.

Unless you choose to embark in an extensive examination on subject of human evolution, one will be led to believe all evolutionists adhere to the genus Australopithecus as being ancestral to humans. While the majority of the evolutionist community embrace this concept, there are several well-respected evolutionists who continue to question the validity.

Reasonably documented participants in the family Hominidae include the Australopithecine’s, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens (Figure 3). The locomotion repertoire of the genus Australopithecus is considered primarily arboreal and secondarily biped when terrestrial. The data for Homo Habilis is somewhat fragmented but now believed to have a locomotion repertoire similar to the Australopithecine’s 10, while only the Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens possess consistent obligatory (habitual) bipedal characteristics.

The evolutionist Charles Oxnard made the following comments, "It is now recognized widely that the australopithecine’s are not structurally closely similar to humans, that they must have been living at least in part in arboreal environments, and that many of the late specimens were contemporaneous or almost so with the earlier members of the genus Homo" 11.

It was also reported by Spoor et al. using CT scans, "These observations support studies of the postcranial fossil record which have concluded that H. (Homo) erectus was an obligatory biped, whereas A. (Australopithecus) africanus showed a locomotor repertoire comprising facultative bipedalism as well as arboreal climing (sic). The labyrinthine evidence is consistent with proposals that bipedalism in Australopithecine’s was characterized by a substantial postural component, and by the absence of more complex movements such as running and jumping." 12 (my emphasis). While Spoor is an evolutionist, he is suggesting the facultative bipedalism of the Australopithecine is dominated by a postural (ex. feeding) locomotion strategy that is inconsistent with the more complex human obligatory bipedal movements.

Wood and Collard stated the Australopithecus displayed a mixed locomotor strategy of terrestrial bipedalism with an ability to climb proficiently. Conversely, the participants in the genus Homo (except for Homo Habilis) are characterized by a commitment to modern human-like terrestrial bipedalism and a very limited ability for brachiation 13.

The facultative bipedalism exhibited by the Australopithecine appears to be a primary evolutionary criteria for transitional status and thus linking them to humans. Although their favored locomotion repertoire is unlike the primarily quadruped gorilla and chimpanzee, other species of apes are considered facultative bipedal. The locomotion characteristics of both the Gibbon and Siamang are very similar to the Australopithecine being well suited for climbing and exhibit brachiation as their primary mode of locomotion 14. They are also known to be habitual bipedal (however ungainly) when they choose to locomote terrestrially.

Conclusions from knee joint comparisons of the Australopithecus and modern humans have been in some dispute. Most evolutionists claim the knee joint is evidence of transitional status from apelike locomotor movements to distinctly human bipedalism. Others have questioned the theory, with Stern et al stating "In summary, the knee of the small Hadar hominid shares with other australopithecines a marked obliquity of the femoral shaft relative to the bicondylar plane, but in all other respects it falls either outside the range of modern human variation (Tardieu, 1979) or barely within it (our analysis). Since, aside from the degree of valgus, the knee of the small Hadar hominid possesses no modern trait to a pronounced degree, and since many of these traits may not serve to specify the precise nature of the bipedality that was practiced, we must agree with Tardieu that the overall structure of the knee is compatible with a significant degree of arboreal locomotion." 15.

The facultative bipedal locomotor strategy of the Australopithecus is unquestionably contrary to the smoother motions of running and jumping exhibited by humans. There is significant evidence the bipedal strategy of the Australopithecine was more postural (feeding) than primarily for locomotion. Hunt stated, "The australopithecine hip and hind limb clearly indicate bipedalism, but also indicate a less than optimal adaptation to bipedal locomotion compared to modern humans. Locomotor inefficiency supports the hypothesis that bipedalism evolved more as a terrestrial feeding posture than as a walking adaptation" 16. Although Hunt employs the evolutionary hypothesis relating awkward postural bipedalism as an intermediate to more complex bipedal locomotion (there is no evidence to support this), it is important to note his statements about their bipedalism being a less than optimal adaptation. Research indicates that quadruped chimpanzees are bipedal ~10% of the time and 80 % of this is postural and related to feeding. It is curious, this type of postural behavior never resulted in the evolution of an actual chimpanzee exhibiting obligatory bipedal locomotion when terrestrial. Evolutionists interpret their observations as evidence to suggest a mechanism establishing transitional status of quadruped / arboreal / bipedal apes to the complex obligatory bipedalism of humans. The data actually sustains the idea of various locomotor similarities linking several apes (living and extinct) to the genus Australopithecus. It does not support the concept of intermediacy to humans.

While the transitional status of these creatures is in some dispute, the Australopithecus idea continues to be the primary dogma of the evolutionist community and portrayed (inaccurately) as a well documented accepted fact. Creationists have always believed their orthograde posture, arboreal locomotion, and clumsy postural bipedalism repertoire supports the conclusion they are extinct forms of tree climbing apes.

Conclusion

Time Magazine was unquestionably irresponsible to present a picture of this creature considering the fragmentary nature of the remains. This type of behavior raises memories of Nebraska Man where a complete ape-man was drawn from an excavated tooth fossil. This of course was later proven to be a fraud.

The judgments reported by Haile-Selassie are somewhat suspicious considering,

  1. The fossils collected were five years apart.
  2. The toe bone fossil was collected over 10 miles from the other fossil sites.
  3. The toe bone dated 200,000 years younger than all other fossils collected.

Donald Johanson (the discoverer of the now famous "Lucy" in 1974) stated, "when you put 5.5 million year old fossils together with 4.4 million year old ones as members of the same species, you’re not taking into consideration that these could be twigs on a tree. Everything’s been forced into a straight line" 17. Recognizing Johanson’s statements, along with the variant locations of these finds, and Haile-Selassie’s categorizing of this lone toe bone with such an age discord, any conclusion drawn from the data is highly arguable.

 

References

1.  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/07/0712_ethiopianbones.html (link is no longer active).
2.  http://www.pnl.gov/energyscience/10-01/art1.htm
3.  http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101010723
4.  Haile-Selassie, Y., "Late Miocene hominids from the Middle Awash, Ethiopia", Nature , 2001, 412, pp. 178-181. 
5.  Woldegabriel, G., Haile-Selassie, Y., Renne, P.R., Hart, W.K., Ambrose, S.H., Asfaw, B., Heiken, G., White, T., "Geology and Palaeontology of the Late Miocene Middle Awash valley, Afar rift, Ethiopia", Nature, 2001, 412, pp. 175-178.
6.   Ref. 4.
7.  Lemonick, M.D., Dorfman, A.D., "One Giant Step for Mankind", Time, July 23, 2001, 158, pp. 54-61. 
8.  Ref. 4
9.  Mehert, A.W., "Australopithecines – the extinct southern apes of Africa: a fresh light on the status?" CEN Technical Journal" (2000), 14(3), pp. 91-99.
10.  Wood, B., Collard, M., "The Human Genus", Science (1999), 284, pp. 65-71.
11.   Oxnard, C.E., "The Order of Man", Yale University Press, New Haven, 1984.
12. Spoor, F., Wood, B., Zonneveld, F., "Implications of Early hominid labyrinthine Morphology for evolution of human Bipedal Locomotion", Nature, 1994, 369, pp. 645-648.
13. Ref. 10.
14. Reg. 9.
15. Hunt, K., "The Evolution of Human Bipedality", J. Human Evol. (1994), 26(3), pp. 183-202. 
16. Stern, J., Sussman, R., "The Locomotion of Australopithecus Afarenis", J. Phys. Anthrop. (1983), 60, pp. 279-313.
17. Ref. 7.

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