BONES (SEAN LARA/LARIAT STAFF)
A 4.4 million year old ancestor of humans was the topic of discussion at Darwin Day celebration on Nov. 11 in the student services building Room SSC 212.
Anthropology students packed the room to learn more about the theory of evolution and earn extra credit for their class.
”I’m here for Merrifield’s class to get extra points and learn about Charles Darwin, which I’m very interested in,” said Patrick Loggins, 19, business.
Mike Merrifield, anthropology instructor opened the celebration with an educational video, followed by a panel discussion presented by Saddleback’s anthropologists.
“I completely believe in the theory of evolution and hope that they will explain it in depth today,” said Aujand Emami, 18, nursing.
The main topic of discussion was ardipithecus ramidus, also known as Ardi. American anthropologist Tim White discovered Ardi in 1994 in the Afar desert in Ethiopia.
“I was actually able to examine the cast with Tim firsthand,” said Renee Garcia, anthropology instructor.
Ardi is the oldest skeleton of a human ancestor. Discoveries show Ardi was in between a chimpanzee and a human and walked upright at four feet tall and weighed 110lbs.
”Ardi is so different from a chimp,” Garcia said. “People don’t realize that chimps are no less evolved than us.”
Ardi’s skeleton is described as having a smaller head, long arms, and a unique large toe that allowed it to grasp round things like a thumb.
“The changing anatomy of species is directly related to changes in the environment,” said Bradley Rettele, anthropology professor.
The panel also discussed the importance of Charles Darwin’s 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species.
“It had a huge impact when it was published and dramatically changed our perception of our earliest ancestors,” Rettele said.
The panel opened up the floor for questions by the students.
”I liked the discussion on how there is no one specific ancestor we can directly relate back to humans,” said Nadia Zamani, 18, English.
Garcia ended the discussion on a final thought regarding a “missing link”.
“Researchers and the media have a special relationship in that researchers allow the media to present our discoveries in a way that provokes interest,” said Garcia. “There is no such thing as a missing link, it’s not accurate and does not exist.”
Ardi may not be the “missing link”, but is however a transitional fossil and the latest discovery of our oldest ancestor.