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Evolution Roundup

November 9, 2012

Evidence suggests that an ancestor of modern humans both walked upright and climbed trees.



Tree-loving ancestors. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

One of the most famous forebears of modern humans is Lucy, the Australopithecus afarensis who left skeletal remains in Ethiopia.  A report in the journal Science suggests that even though Lucy walked on two legs, she remained adapted for tree climbing. An international team of researchers report that the shoulder bones of both Lucy and another specimen were oriented upwards, the same as in today’s tree climbing apes. That suggests that while Lucy and her kin walked upright, they still spent time in the trees.

In other prehistory news, scientists at the University of Calgary are studying feathered dinosaurs called Ornithomimids. They report that these small dinosaurs had wing-like features only when they were fully grown. They conclude wings in these dinosaurs evolved not for flying, but for some other reason, possibly mating displays or egg brooding. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Artist's reconstruction of an Ornithomimid dinosaur and baby. (Julius Csotonyi)