Sunday, 22 July, 2018

Hominins walked like modern humans, climbed like apes

3 Million Years Ago, Toddler Could Walk Upright and Climb Trees Our Human Ancestors Walked on Two Feet but Their Children Still Had a Backup Plan
Elijah Vega | 08 July, 2018, 20:28

The full study, titled "A almost complete foot from Dikika, Ethiopia and its implications for the ontogeny and function of Australopithecus afarensis", is available to read online.

"For the first time, we have an fantastic window into what walking was like for a two-and-a-half-year-old, more than three million years ago", said the study's lead author, Dr Jeremy DeSilva.

Zeresenay Alemseged, paleontologist and professor of organismal biology and anatomy and the University of Chicago and senior author of the study added that "the morphology that you see in adults is the result of both their evolution through time and how they changed as they grew", which is why studying younger individuals is important.

The 3.32 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis foot from Dikika, Ethiopia, superimposed over a footprint from a human toddler.

More than 3 million years ago, our adult human ancestors were walking on two feet and didn't have the option of a fashionable baby sling to carry their kids around in.

Selam is a member of the Australopithecus afarensis species-an extinct hominin thought to be an ancestor of our own genus, Homo, or possibly a close ancestral relative. This fossil, dated at 3.32 million years ago, comprises most of the skull and torso, as well as many parts of the limbs.

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Although they could also use their ability of speed to escape predators, the report also said that the child, who was probably "similar in size to a chimpanzee of comparable age", would still have been entirely dependable on his or her parents and were "often actively carried by adults". Selam most likely clung to her mother as she foraged for food or spent time in trees. However, the bone at the base of our big toe-called the medial cuneiform-has a connection for the big toe that is more curved and slightly more angled than what is found in humans today.

Over 3 million years ago, our ancient ancestors and their toddlers were standing on two feet and walking upright, it has been revealed.

An important piece in the hominid evolution, Australopithecus afarensis was spending more time walking upright, preferring the ground over the trees and exhibiting some of the traits of the modern human.

But when researchers analyzed the skeletal structure of Selam's foot, they noticed that the base of the big toe would have allowed her to be a great climber.

The Dikika child's foot shows that the toddler already had the bone structure needed to stand and walk. "We conclude from this, and from previous studies on the shoulders of the Dikika child that she would have been able to climb, and to also grasp onto her mother during travel".

Alemseged believes that all of this evidence combined shows what a critical, pivotal species afarensis was for human evolution. The fossil record indicates that these ancient ancestors were quite good at walking on two legs.

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