I just made what what may be the most amazing discovery of the century at a local booze emporium. Dogfish Head brewing company makes a beer whose label is adorned with Jay Matternes’s reconstruction of an upright Ardipithecus ramidus. Note that the left foot grasps the earth with it’s ape-like big toe.
In a whimsical use of artistic license, whoever adopted this image added a curlicue pig’s tail. In animals with a tail, a number of caudal vertebrae continue off the set of fused vertebrae called the sacrum. Humans and other apes don’t have true tails but a coccyx, a small clump of tiny, fused vertebral segments. Our tail vestige may not help us hang onto trees like in Ateline monkeys, or sting our enemies like a scorpion, but the coccyx is still pretty important. In people this evolutionary memory of a tail anchors some muscles of the pelvic floor (including sphincter ani externus and levator ani), which are critical for the to control of our bowels.
Below is a close up of the Ardipithecus ramidus pelvis fossils (from White et al. 2009, fig. 3). No coccyx was discovered for Ardi, and little is said about the sacrum, other than that it’s merely broken piece of the end of the bone (Lovejoy et al. 2009). Nevertheless, I’m sure this end of sacrum would lead one to reject this artist’s hypothesis that Ardipithecus had a tail.
Had I been in charge of labeling at Dogfish Head, the beer would’ve been called “Party-pithecus” instead of “namaste,” and this label would’ve been slapped on some exotic IPA or porter instead of a wheat beer. Still pretty awesome, though.
Learn about Ardi and its pelvis
Lovejoy, C., Suwa, G., Spurlock, L., Asfaw, B., & White, T. (2009). The Pelvis and Femur of Ardipithecus ramidus: The Emergence of Upright Walking Science, 326 (5949), 71-71 DOI: 10.1126/science.1175831
White, T., Asfaw, B., Beyene, Y., Haile-Selassie, Y., Lovejoy, C., Suwa, G., & WoldeGabriel, G. (2009). Ardipithecus ramidus and the Paleobiology of Early Hominids Science, 326 (5949), 64-64 DOI: 10.1126/science.1175802