Science  21 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6177, pp. 1295

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  1. 'Little Foot' Fossil Could Be a Human Ancestor


    The age of Little Foot—the most complete skeleton known of an early member of the human lineage—has vexed researchers since his 1997 discovery in a South African cave. But a new study suggests he may be old enough to be a direct ancestor of today's humans.

    Little Foot's discoverers, paleoanthropologist Ron Clarke of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and colleagues, first pegged him to be about 3.3 million years old. But other teams arrived at about 2.2 million, meaning Little Foot couldn't be ancestral to the first (2.5-million-year-old) Homo fossils. After a more detailed analysis of the cave rocks, Clarke's team now argues that 2.2 million may be a good estimate for the so-called flowstones that formed as water deposited minerals in the space around the skeleton. But Little Foot himself is at least 3 million years old, they claim in a paper in press at the Journal of Human Evolution. Some are skeptical, but if correct, the results put South Africa back in the running as a possible home of the Homo line.