Foot Fossil of Juvenile Hominin Exhibits Ape-Like Features

3 Million Years Ago, Toddler Could Walk Upright and Climb Trees

It has been for a while since scientists were aware that the early ape-like hominid A. afarensis was part of our family tree, and walked on two feet.

The study titled, "A almost complete foot from Dikika, Ethiopia and its implications for the ontogeny and function of Australopithecus afarensis", was published July 4 in the journal Science Advances.

"For the first time, we have an unbelievable window into what walking was like for a 3-year-old, more than 3 million years ago".

The evidence comes from DIK-1-1 - a relatively complete 3.3 million-year-old skeleton of a 2.5- to 3-year-old female Australopithecus afarensisdiscovered in Dikika, Ethiopia.

"This is the most complete foot of an ancient juvenile ever discovered", Desilva says. In 2002, archaeologists discovered a well-preserved, partial skeleton of an infant A. afarensis, thought to be around 3-years-old at the time of death. Selam was a hominin, an early human ancestor called Australopithecus afarensis. Later, Selam was found just a few miles away from Lucy and was then given the nickname "baby Lucy", despite being alive around 200,000 years before Lucy. Such skills could be crucial in times of danger, allowing the child to escape the predator by either clinging to its mother or by climbing up the trees. UPDATE: I take it back - look at the included photos of the foot above and below and decide for yourselves how similar it looks to any foot you've seen before.

"If you were living in Africa three million years ago without fire, without structures, and without any means of defence, you'd better be able get up in a tree when the sun goes down", said Dr DeSilva.

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Bridging the gap between humans and chimps, Lucy had slightly curved fingers and toes, with mobile ankles and shoulders that provided more overhead range of movement. Even with those abilities, she would have been better at walking than climbing.

The foot bones of the fossil show that the child was already walking on two legs at the time, but also spending a lot of time in the trees - hanging onto her mother as she foraged for food.

Their findings suggest that afarensis had human and ape-like traits based on their selective advantage, which also shows the "mosaic nature" behind the evolution of walking upright and skeletal evolution, Alemseged said.

They examined what the extremity would have been used for, how it developed, and what it tells us about human evolution (spoiler: our progenitors were "quite good" at walking upright).

The paleontologists managed to recover the whole skeleton of this primitive female toddler and started to study it to shed more light on the human evolution.

"Most of the fossil record consists of adults-it is unusual to find fossilized remains of children, and these give us wonderful insight into growth and development in our ancestors".

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