'Hominins walked like modern humans, climbed like apes'

3 Million Years Ago, Toddler Could Walk Upright and Climb Trees

It has been for a while since scientists were aware that the early ape-like hominid A. afarensis was part of our family tree, and walked on two feet. "But, walking poorly in a landscape full of predators is a recipe for extinction", said lead author on this study Jeremy DeSilva, associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College.

Alemseged, a University of Chicago professor and senior study author, agrees: "The Dikika foot adds to the wealth of knowledge on the mosaic nature of hominin skeletal evolution".

Header Image - The Dikika foot is one part of a partial skeleton of a 3.32 million-year-old skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis child.

For more information on this subject, have a peek at the paper "A almost complete foot from Dikika, Ethiopia and its implications for the ontogeny and function of Australopithecus afarensis".

Scientists have found fossils that are millions of years old, and it tells us more about what our early ancestors would have been like.

However, juvenile specimens of most human hominin ancestors are scarce, and thus, it has been hard to trace how important traits are selected in animals, over time. But Selam actually died more than 100,000 years before Lucy was even alive. Such skills could be crucial in times of danger, allowing the child to escape the predator by either clinging to its mother or by climbing up the trees.

"Every fossil gives us some bit of our past, [but] when you have a child skeleton, you can ask questions about growth and development-and what the life of a kid was like three million years ago", DeSilva told National Geographic. However, the bone at the base of our big toe-called the medial cuneiform-has a connection for the big toe that is more curved and slightly more angled than what is found in humans today. "We think that this helps explain the differences we see between the bones of the Dikika toddler and the more human-like bones of the adults".


Over 3 million years ago, our ancient ancestors and their toddlers were standing on two feet and walking upright, it has been revealed.

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.

This finding challenges the long-held assumption that A. afarensis was exclusively bipedal (using only two legs for walking) and only occasionally climbed into trees.

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

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

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. The new study supports many previous studies that the foot in A. afarensis was adapted for upright walking and was largely human-like.

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