The scientists unearthed Little Foot’s fossils in South Africa back in the 1990s and its age has been the subject of many debates.
Darryl Granger, a geologist from Purdue University in Indiana and one of the scientists who wrote the new study, said that Little Foot’s age has been very much debated since it was first discovered.
Darryl Granger has detailed the findings of his new study in the journal Nature.
According to the latest study, Little Foot, who belongs to the Australopithecus Prometheus species of human ancestors, lived at approximately the same time as another of our earliest ancestors, the Australopithecus afarensis.
The most famous fossils of Australopithecus afarensis belongs to Lucy, discovered in Ethiopia. Both species had both ape and human-like features but were different.
The scientists analyzed data from 11 rock samples found around Little Foot’s skeleton at the Sterkfontein Caves. The analysis was done to determine the exact age of the fossils.
The new findings are said to provide important information on the evolutionary relationships between human’s earliest relatives.
According to the experts, Homo sapiens, which is our species, appeared approximately 200,000 years ago. But earlier members that belonged to the human genus, known as Homo, lived more than 2 million years ago.
The scientists say that our genus was actually predated by other species belonging to the human family tree, such as various species of Australopithecus.
Lucy’s kind lived at the same time with Little Foot’s kind, although data shows that Lucy lived approximately 500,000 later.
But like Lucy, the researchers say that Little Foot was also a female. Its species was bigger and taller than that of Lucy’s, and had facial features that resembled those of a gorilla. Little Foot’s kind was fully upright and had strong hands used for climbing trees.
Kathy Kuman and Ron Clarke from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg said that Little Foot’s hands were proportioned like humans’; they had a long thumb, a short palm and short fingers, compared to the elongated hands modern apes have.
Also, Little Foot had legs that were longer than its arms, unlike the modern ape species.
The researchers said that there are similarities between Little Foot and the Parranthropus, which is one of the later human ancestors.
These two species share similar features in terms of facial structure and the size and shape of the teeth.
Because of these similarities, the experts believe that Little Foot may have been a close cousin of Paranthrropus.
Image Source: news.sciencemag.org