Wealth of Multimedia Surrounds Ardipithecus Paper in Science

Artist's rendition of Ardipithecus ramidus. (credit: J.H. Matternes)

Artist's rendition of Ardipithecus ramidus. (credit: J.H. Matternes)

Yesterday saw a blizzard of media surrounding the Ardipithecus paper published in the October 2nd issue of Science. A quick Google search reveals more than 600 articles published on the subject since yesterday morning.

If you don’t know already know, Ardipithecus (affectionately known as Ardi by some) is a hominid fossil discovered in Ethiopia some 15 years ago. However, the buzz is not about the fossil discovery itself, but rather the insight that Ardi is an early ancestor of humans–something that wasn’t entirely clear until now. This revelation is making scientists rewrite the book on early hominid history and also their vision of the last common ancestor we shared with chimps, more than four million years ago.

Somewhat reminiscent of the American Natural History Museum’s “missing link” campaign back in May, Ardi also has its own primetime cable television special that airs October 11th on the Discovery Channel. But if you just can’t wait, there is already a wealth of multimedia on-line to quench your Ardi thirst.

For example, Science magazine has produced its own interview video which features Tim White, one of the  directors of the Ardi project.  The video composition and lighting aren’t pretty but the interviewees give a good overview of where Ardi fits into the evolutionary tree–and the sound quality is fantastic.

The New York Times has a basic slideshow with vibrant images of the original Ardi dig. These photos make one appreciate the lengths that paleontological researchers go to in order to find preserved fossils. The Ethiopian desert appears both austerely beautiful, yet inhospitable to any kind of physical activity beyond breathing.

The Discovery Channel website has an interactive multimedia Ardi extravaganza created in Adobe’s Flash program. While I can appreciate the time and effort that went into a project like this,  I’m not keen on the layout or the interface.  In addition, the internet is primarily about connections and a self-contained Flash project like this is essentially a walled garden.

Finally, Science Friday, the popular NPR call-in show will feature paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall, who will discuss how Ardi impacts our understanding of human evolution. If you can’t catch it live on NPR, you can grab the podcast via the official site or from Apple’s itunes.

Have you found any cool Ardi-related multimedia? If so, post your links below, or email me at erolson@sciencevids.com.

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