Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Our 3-Million-Year-Old Ancestors’ Children Were Walking, Climbing Trees

Left block of images The 3.32 million year old foot from an Australopithecus afarensis toddler shown in different angles. Right block of images The child's foot compared with the fossil remains of an adult Australopithecus foot. Credi Image The 3.3 million year old foot in different angles. Pic Jeremy De Silva & Cody Prang
Cary Marshall | 08 July, 2018, 20:31

In 2002 experts uncovered the almost complete skeleton of "Selam", an early human ancestor called Australopithecus afarensis, in the Dikika region of Ethiopia, CNN noted.

"For the first time, we have an unbelievable window into what walking was like for a 2½-year-old, more than 3 million years ago", says lead author, Jeremy DeSilva, an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College, who is one of the world's foremost authorities on the feet of our earliest ancestors. "The Dikika foot adds to the wealth of knowledge on the mosaic nature of hominin skeletal evolution" explains Alemseged.

The 3.32 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis foot from Dikika, Ethiopia, superimposed over a footprint from a human toddler. The professor found a skull, nearly a complete vertebral column with ribs, shoulder bones, part of her arms and legs and the foot. That the little female juvenile that existed 3 million years ago was spending time in the trees shows that she was partially in need of her mother's protection.

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". She belonged to the Australopithecus afarensis group of hominins, our distant relatives.

Without so many amenities in those primitive times, many early humans especially weak toddlers had to climb trees and stay put so that predators remained away from them. He unearthed Selam's foot back in 2002.

"If you were living in Africa 3 million years ago without fire, without structures, and without any means of defense, you'd better be able get up in a tree when the sun goes down", DeSilva said in a statement.

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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.

Over 3 million years ago, our ancient ancestors and their toddlers were standing on two feet and walking upright, it has been revealed. But fossilized hints-namely the base of the big toe-hint that children spent more time in trees than adults.

This evidence of increased mobility of the toe is an ape-like pattern that DeSilva et al. say is suggestive of a selective advantage of this trait and which offers new insights into the evolution of bipedality.

A 2012 study of Selam's shoulder blade also showed the species would be effective when it comes to climbing. 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.

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.

Scientists started to study one of Selam's foot to find out more about how our ancestors walked.

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