[01/13/05 - 12:00 AM]
National Geographic Channel Takes You on the Ultimate Detective Story in the 'Search for the Ultimate Survivor'

[via press release from National Geographic Channel]

National Geographic Channel Takes You on the Ultimate Detective Story in the 'Search for the Ultimate Survivor'

'Human Evolution is Like the Ultimate Game of Survivor, Except the Loser Gets Voted Off the Planet'

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 -- We thought we knew how we became human. We were wrong. Text books will no longer include the famous illustration of human evolution moving in a straight progression from hulking ape to modern human. A new generation of scientists is unearthing tantalizing clues in a mystery that circles the globe over millions of years. Their discoveries are dramatically rewriting the human story ... our story.

This new evidence reveals our prehistoric ancestors did not walk the earth alone. Parallel experiments in human evolution gave rise to diverse human forms, from giants to "hobbits" ... each with the intelligence, skills and potential to flourish. Some evolved, others died off, and even those that gave rise to modern man may have teetered at the edge of extinction. How and why did we outlive nature's other human experiments? The National Geographic Channel presents the latest chapter in what may be the ultimate detective story, "Search for the Ultimate Survivor," premiering Sunday, March 20, 2005 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

The two-hour special takes viewers on a seven million-year-long journey around the globe with expert scientists, explorers and paleoanthropologists. Combining advanced Computer Generated Imaging (CGI), re-enactments and expert analysis, "Search for the Ultimate Survivor" takes viewers from modern day Indonesia to prehistoric Europe and the African plains on a mission to find out what happened over the millennia to help us survive. The emerging big picture reveals that the human family tree is really more of a bush, with many branches competing for survival.

From giants of unmatched size and strength to prehistoric "hobbit-like" people half the size of humans today, scientists supported by National Geographic are reconstructing moments in time to find many different species competing for survival at the same time. These competitors challenged our dominance, forced us to change and nearly 70,000 years ago pushed us to the brink of extinction. So with all of these different human experiments, why were we the ultimate survivor?

Among those searching for answers is National Geographic Explorer-in- Residence Louise Leakey, the youngest star of the famous paleontology family. Now working in Kenya, she is rewriting the Leakey legacy as she unearths Flat Face, a new human species that lived three and a half million years ago alongside the hominid known as Lucy.

"This one discovery forces us to reassess everything we thought we knew about the earliest humans," remarks Leakey. "There is so much more for us to discover, I would be surprised if we had found representatives of even half of the different species that existed over all of human history. Did we come from Flat Face or Lucy? Is this the only rival to Lucy? This is well over three million years ago, are we even human yet?"

Enter the tropical lost world of the Indonesian island of Flores populated 18,000 years ago by miniature elephants, komodo dragons and the recently discovered Flores Man the "hobbit-sized" human that made front page news around the world. This newly found creature flourished on the island while modern humans rapidly dominated the rest of the planet. With exclusive documentary footage, "Search for the Ultimate Survivor" examines the partial skeleton found in Indonesia. The skeleton shows this species to be just a child-sized miniature version of man -- a three-foot-tall adult. The skull housed a brain a quarter of the size of our ancestor, but despite this smaller brain the "hobbit-like" creature seemed to have the intelligence of a larger species.

"Until just recently, we had no evidence this new species of human even existed," said Bert Roberts, a leading scientist on the discovery of Flores Man. "Human history has not been one human species, ourselves, living on this planet for the last two million years. It's been a whole host of human species."

In "Search for the Ultimate Survivor," viewers see history in the making as scientists rebuild their understanding of human evolution bone by bone. Follow the trail of the first walking ape Erectus Outbound as he embarks upon a prehistoric road trip across Africa to the Pacific Rim. Back at home in Kenya, scientists find evidence that Erectus at home learned to master fire and cook meat. New theories may explain why this milestone gave rise to a larger brain and changed the course of prehistoric human history.

After following Erectus over centuries, scientists determined to solve the mystery stumble across yet another new human experiment, but this man is much larger than any they have found so far ... he is Goliath. While scientists are tracking Flores Man in the Pacific and Erectus traveling north, remains of the superman Goliath are found across southern Africa. And they all lived on earth during the same moment in time.

"These are humans, at least human ancestors, that are bigger, much more robust, much more strongly built than we are," said Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist in South Africa. "We can say with confidence that the Goliath we're reconstructing was the largest human ancestor that ever lived. At least that we have found so far."

And the search continues as everyday new discoveries are changing the way we think about how we became human. "Human evolution is like the ultimate game of survivor, except the loser gets voted off the planet," said Berger.

"Search for the Ultimate Survivor" is produced for the National Geographic Channel by National Geographic Film and Television. John Rubin is producer. John Bredar is executive producer for NGT&F. For National Geographic Channel, John Bowman is executive producer; John Ford is executive in charge of production.

Based at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channel is a joint venture between National Geographic Television & Film (NGT&F) and Fox Cable Networks. National Geographic Channel debuted to an initial 10 million homes in January 2001, and has been one of the fastest growing networks in history. The Channel has carriage with all of the nation's major cable and satellite television providers, making it currently available to 52 million homes. For more information, please visit http://www.nationalgeographic.com/channel.

SOURCE National Geographic Channel
Web Site: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/channel

  [january 2005]  

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