Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Newly discovered foot points to a new kid on the hominin block

Date:
March 30, 2012
Source:
Johns Hopkins
Summary:
It seems that “Lucy” was not the only hominin on the block in northern Africa about 3 million years ago.

The fourth metatarsal of the Burtele partial foot right after discovery in Stephanie Melillo's hand.
Credit: The Cleveland Museum of Natural History Photo courtesy: Yohannes Haile-Selassie

It seems that "Lucy" was not the only hominin on the block in northern Africa about 3 million years ago.

A team of researchers that included Johns Hopkins University geologist Naomi Levin has announced the discovery of a partial foot skeleton with characteristics (such as an opposable big toe bone) that don't match those of Lucy, the human ancestor (or hominin) known to inhabit that region and considered by many to be the ancestor of all modern humans.

The discovery is important because it provides first-ever evidence that at least two pre-human ancestors lived between 3 million and 4 million years ago in the Afar region of Ethiopia, and that they had different ways of moving around the landscape.

"The foot belonged to a hominin species -- not yet named -- that overlaps in age with Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis). Although it was found in a neighboring project area that is relatively close to the Lucy fossil site, it does not look like an A. afarensis foot," explains Levin, an assistant professor in the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

A paper in the March 29 issue of Nature describes this foot, which is similar in some ways to the remains of another hominin fossil, called Ardipithecus ramidus, but which has different features.

Its discovery could shed light on how our ancestors learned to walk upright, according to Levin.

"What is clear is that the foot of the Burtele hominin was able to grasp items much better than its contemporary, A. afarensis, would have been able to do, which suggests that it was adept at moving around in trees," says Levin, who was part of a team led by Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History that also included researchers from Case Western Reserve University and the Berkeley Geochronology Center.

The finding is important, Levin says, because it shows that there is much more to learn about the role of locomotion in human evolution.

"This fossil makes the story of locomotion more complex, and it shows that we have a lot more to learn about how humans transitioned from moving around in trees to moving around on the ground -- on two legs.This fossil shows that some hominins may have been capable of doing both," she says.

The fossil, dated to approximately 3.4 million years ago, was discovered in 2009 in sediments along the Burtele drainage in the Afar region of Ethiopia that is now very hot and dry. The researchers believe the area was wetter and more wooded when the Burtele hominin lived, based on its deltaic sedimentary context, results from isotopic studies and the range of fossil animals found near the site.

"We're just at the beginning of understanding the environmental context for this important fossil. It will be a critical part of understanding this hominin, its habitat and the role that the environment played in its evolution," she says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Beverly Z. Saylor, Alan Deino, Naomi E. Levin, Mulugeta Alene, Bruce M. Latimer. A new hominin foot from Ethiopia shows multiple Pliocene bipedal adaptations. Nature, 2012; 483 (7391): 565 DOI: 10.1038/nature10922

Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins. "Newly discovered foot points to a new kid on the hominin block." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330134002.htm>.
Johns Hopkins. (2012, March 30). Newly discovered foot points to a new kid on the hominin block. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330134002.htm
Johns Hopkins. "Newly discovered foot points to a new kid on the hominin block." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330134002.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) Malaysia's last "fish listeners" -- practitioners of a dying local art of listening underwater to locate their quarry -- try to keep the ancient technique alive in the face of industrial trawling and the depletion of stocks. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mother And Son Find Woolly Mammoth Tusks 22 Years Apart

Mother And Son Find Woolly Mammoth Tusks 22 Years Apart

Newsy (Aug. 15, 2014) A mother and son in Alaska uncovered woolly mammoth tusks in the same river more than two decades apart. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fossils Reveal Ancient Flying Reptile With 'Butterfly Head'

Fossils Reveal Ancient Flying Reptile With 'Butterfly Head'

Newsy (Aug. 14, 2014) Newly found fossils reveal a previously unknown species of flying reptile with a really weird head, which some say looks like a butterfly. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Clearing WWII's Explosive Legacy in the Pacific

Clearing WWII's Explosive Legacy in the Pacific

AFP (Aug. 11, 2014) The hulks of tanks can still be found rusting in the jungles of Palau, but the fierce fighting that scarred the Pacific island nation in WWII has left a more dangerous legacy - unexploded bombs that pose a constant risk to locals. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


'Lucy' Lived Among Close Cousins: Discovery of Foot Fossil Confirms Two Human Ancestor Species Co-Existed

Mar. 28, 2012 Scientists have found a 3.4 million-year-old partial foot fossil in the Afar region of Ethiopia, showing that "Lucy," Australopithecus afarensis, and a much different-looking early hominin ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins