Sophisticated scanning technology reveals fascinating secrets about Little Feet, the remarkable fossil of early humans living in South Africa 3.67 million years ago, at a critical juncture in our evolutionary history.
Scientists said on Tuesday they had examined a vital, near-complete and well-preserved piece of the fossil at Britain’s national synchrotron plant, Diamond. Light Source The scan focuses on Little Foot’s skull, the upper part of her body, and the lower jaw or lower jaw.
Researchers gain insights not only It is not only about the biology of Little Foot’s species, but also the difficulties that this person, an adult female, faced during her lifetime.
The Little Foot species combines ape and human traits and is considered a direct ancestor of humans, University anthropologist Ron Clarke. Witwatersrand The fossils were excavated in 1990 in Sterkfontein Cave in northwestern Johannesburg, and a co-author of the new study has identified the species Ostralopitecus Prometheus.
Amélie Beaudet, an anthropologist at the University of Cambridge, who led the study published in the journal e-Life.
“This is very interesting because we don’t have a lot of information about that system,” Bodet added, noting that it tends to play a role in the brain triplication from Ostralopitecus. To modern humans
Little Foot’s teeth were revealed, too.
“Tooth tissue is very well preserved. She was quite old because her teeth were somewhat worn, ”Bodet said, although the exact age of Little Feet has not been determined.
The researchers found defects in tooth enamel that were twice indicative of childhood physiological stress, such as disease or malnutrition.
“There’s a lot to learn about the biology of early hominin,” said Thomas Connolly, Diamond’s primary beam scientist, using a term that encompasses modern humans and certain members. “Synchrotron X-ray imaging enables fossil biopsy in the same manner as hospital X-ray scans of patients.” But there are much more details. “
The Little Foot, whose nickname reflects the tiny foot bone, one of the first skeleton elements found, is about 4 feet 3 inches (130 cm) tall. Little Foot has been compared in importance to fossil. So called Lucy, which is about 3.2 million years old and less complete.
Both belong to the Ostralopitecus genus. But they have different biological traits, just like modern humans and Neanderthals are the same species – homo – but with different characteristics. Lucy’s species is called Ostralopiteus Apharensis.
“Ostralopitecus may be a direct ancestor of the Homo-humans – and we need to learn more about the different species of Ostralopiteus to be able to decide which option to choose. It is the best our direct ancestor, ”Bodet said.
Our own species of Homo sapiens first appeared about 300,000 years ago.
The synchrotron discovery builds on previous research on Little Foot.
This breed is able to walk fully upright. But there are signs that it still climbs trees, perhaps sleeping there to avoid large predators. It has gorilla-like facial features and powerful hands for climbing. Its legs are longer than the arms, just like modern humans, making it the oldest hominin known to have such a trait.
“All the previous Australopitecus skeletons were partial and incomplete,” Clark said.