News FocusAMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGISTS

For Early Hominins in Africa, Many Ways To Take a Walk

Science  04 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6081, pp. 538
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6081.538-a

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Summary

Several new studies of incredibly rare fossils of feet and partial skeletons reported at the meeting reveal the complexity of early bipedalism. In a talk, a paleoanthropologist showed how the primitive foot of a still-unnamed species of Australopithecus shared features such as an opposable big toe with the 4.4-million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus, which suggests that both hominins still spent considerable time in trees. The foot also shared a key trait with Au. africanus, which lived about 2 million years ago in South Africa. Neither of those features is found in Au. afarensis, suggesting that Lucy's species cannot be the direct ancestor of Au. africanus. That means that a second hominin lineage must have led to Au. africanus, the researcher notes.

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