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So what’s this about “Little Foot”?

Little Foot skull/University of the Witwatersrand (2014)

If you read the science news, you’ve probably been hearing about Little Foot alot:

The first of a raft of papers about ‘Little Foot’ suggests that the fossil is a female who showed some of the earliest signs of human-like bipedal walking around 3.67 million years ago. She may also belong to a distinct species that most researchers haven’t previously recognized.Colin Barras, “‘Little Foot’ hominin emerges from stone after millions of years” at Nature

Ninety percent of the skeleton found in South Africa is complete, compared to (possibly) fellow Australopithecus Lucy’s 40%. The papers will be published in a special edition of the Journal of Human Evolution.

An early announcement described Little Foot as an Australopithecus prometheus, but as Barras notes above, that’s disputed.

And we don’t know much more than that:

Like other, younger fossils previously found in Sterkfontein, Little Foot is a human progenitor called an australopithecine. Its species’ name remains uncertain—most researchers think it is likely Australopithecus africanus, a species long known from South Africa, while Clarke prefers to call it Australopithecus prometheus.

Whatever its species, the skeleton is clearly different from Lucy’s species Australopithecus afarensis, which is known only from East Africa. The older date for Little Foot doesn’t necessarily relegate A. afarensis to a lesser role in the human evolutionary story, but it does suggest that story was populated by a diversity of characters deep in time, and spread across Africa. Jamie Shreeve, “‘Little Foot’ Fossil Skeleton Rivals Famous Lucy in Age” at National Geographic

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See also: Cranium of extinct Australopithecus “shows similarities to” our own

Miller: The evidence shows that Lucy is an ape species, not a human ancestor


At Science News: Hominid kids were upright walkers 3 million years ago


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