'Hominins walked like modern humans, climbed like apes'

  • 'Hominins walked like modern humans, climbed like apes'

'Hominins walked like modern humans, climbed like apes'

The research found that the toddler-aged A.afarensis were capable of standing and walking upright on their two feet, and surprisingly, also capable of climbing trees adeptly.

"For the first time, we have an awesome window into what walking was like for a 2½-year-old, more than 3 million years ago", said Jeremy DeSilva, lead study author and an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College, according to CNN. "The Dikika foot adds to the wealth of knowledge on the mosaic nature of hominin skeletal evolution" explained Alemseged.

The tiny foot, about the size of a human thumb, is part of a almost complete 3.32-million-year-old skeleton of a young female Australopithecus afarensis discovered in 2002 in the Dikika region of Ethiopia by Zeresenay (Zeray) Alemseged, a professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study. The professor found a skull, nearly a complete vertebral column with ribs, shoulder bones, part of her arms and legs and the foot. Selam lived in the region of Ethiopia with about 3.3 million years ago and belonged to an early human species, one of our ancestors, scientifically known as the Australopithecus Afarensis.

However, juvenile specimens of most human hominin ancestors are scarce, and thus, it has been hard to trace how important traits are selected in animals, over time. However, findings also suggest that she was still spending time in the trees, foraging for food while clinging to her mother. 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.

"Every fossil gives us some bit of our past, [but] when you have a child skeleton, you can ask questions about growth and development-and what the life of a kid was like three million years ago", DeSilva told National Geographic. 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. Even with those abilities, she would have been better at walking than climbing. Essentially, the base joint of the subject's big toe was curved, something that suggested she was able to wiggle the toe more than modern-day humans and use it for gripping.

DeSilva said his research also reveals the toddler would have been quite skilled at walking on two feet, based on the shape of the foot. Lucy and other adult A. afarensis fossils had robust heel bones that are similar to those that humans are born with, and they're suitable for walking upright.

Alemseged believes that all of this evidence combined shows what a critical, pivotal species afarensis was for human evolution. Fossils of these ancient humans showed such a feet structure of the young ones that it seems they scaled trees.