The KSU anthropologist has been part of a major research effort in recent years.
KENT — A Kent State University professor of anthropology says we should throw out all those posters and books that depict an ape evolving into a human being.
C. Owen Lovejoy, an internationally recognized biological anthropologist who specializes in the study of human origins, is one of the primary authors who revealed their research findings Thursday on Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominid species that lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia.
“People often think we evolved from apes, but no, apes in many ways evolved from us,” Lovejoy said. “It has been a popular idea to think humans are modified chimpanzees. From studying Ardipithecus ramidus, or ‘Ardi,’ we learn that we cannot understand or model human evolution from chimps and gorillas.”
A special issue of Science (www.sciencemag.org) available today will feature 11 papers that are the first formal description of Ardi, a partial female skeleton. Lovejoy was first author on five papers and contributed to an additional three. For the past seven years, he has been a part of a major international research effort studying Ardi, serving as post-cranial anatomist and behavioral theorist.
One of Lovejoy’s most recognized achievements is the reconstruction of the skeleton of “Lucy,” a fossil of a human ancestor that walked upright more than 3 million years ago.
“Ardi is 1 million years older than Lucy, more informative than Lucy, and Ardi changes what we know about human evolution,” he said.
When comparing Ardi to Lucy, Lovejoy said that working on Ardi was much more exciting and interesting. “She provides real answers,” he said.
Lovejoy has taught at Kent State for 40 years and holds the honor of being one of the Institute for Scientific Information’s “Most Highly Cited” authors in social sciences. In 2007, he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences for excellence in original scientific research.
To watch a video of Lovejoy discussing the research findings of Ardipithecus ramidus, visit www.kent.edu. A Discovery Channel special featuring Lovejoy and Kent State also will air this month.