The discovery of 4.5 million year-old Ardipithecus ramidus in Ethiopia and its detailed analysis sheds significant light on the question of when our early ancestors began to walk on two legs. C. Owen Lovejoy, professor of anthropology at Kent State University discusses that question and others on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the UNM Anthropology Lecture Hall (Room 163 of the Anthropology Building).

His lecture, “A New Kind of Ancestor: New Light on the Earliest Origins of the Human Clade” explores why humans adopted this peculiar form of locomotion.  He will discuss whether our last common ancestor with chimpanzees also walked upright or ‘knuckle-walked’ as chimpanzees do.  His lecture explores the critical role bipedalism played in the emergence of other unique human characteristics such as the increase in brain size, the development of language and uniquely human forms of social relations.

The newest addition to knowledge about our ultimate ancestry came from a discovery near Aramis, Ethiopia.  The anatomy of the new find is revolutionary and requires substantial revision of current theories about the earliest phase of human evolution, especially those relating to the adoption of upright walking.

Lovejoy, an anatomist who received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, is an expert in orthopedic biomechanics and a specialist in early hominid evolution from the perspective of developmental biology.  He has published numerous seminal articles on the origins of bipedalism and its consequences, including basic forms of human social organization.  Lovejoy, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is a key participant of the research team led by Tim White of the University of California Berkeley and Giday WoldeGabriel of the Los Alamos National Laboratory studying the earliest human ancestors in the Awash Basin of Ethiopia.

The lecture is free and the public is welcome.  The lecture hall is wheelchair accessible.  The lecture is sponsored by the Journal for Anthropological Research, which has been published quarterly by UNM since 1945 in the interest of general anthropology.

Lovejoy will also give a specialized seminar on the role of developmental biology in the study of hominin evolution on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, at 12 noon in Anthropology 248.