New foot­print finds sug­gest range of body sizes for Lucy’s species

Sun.Star Pampanga - - PERSPECTIVE! -

Fa­mous foot­prints of nearly 3.7mil­lion-year-old ho­minids, found in 1976 at Tan­za­nia’s Lae­toli site, now have siz­able new neigh­bors.

While ex­ca­vat­ing small pits in 2015 to eval­u­ate the im­pact of a pro­posed field mu­seum at Lae­toli, re­searchers un­cov­ered com­pa­ra­bly an­cient ho­minid foot­prints about 150 me­ters from the orig­i­nal dis­cov­er­ies. The new finds re­veal a vast range of body sizes for an­cient mem­bers of the hu­man evo­lu­tion­ary fam­ily, re­ports an in­ter­na­tional team led by ar­chae­ol­o­gists Fidelis Masao and El­gid­ius Ichum­baki, both of the Uni­ver­sity of Dar es Salaam in Tan­zan i a.

A de­scrip­tion of the new Lae­toli foot­prints ap­pears on­line De­cem­ber 14 in eLife.

Sci­en­tists ex­posed 14 ho­minid foot­prints, made by two in­di­vid­u­als as they walked across wet vol­canic ash. More than 500 foot­prints of an­cient horses, rhinos, birds and other an­i­mals dot­ted the area around the ho­minid tracks. Like pre­vi­ously un­earthed tracks of three in­di­vid­u­als who ap­par­ently strode across the same layer of soft ash at the same time, the lat­est foot­prints were prob­a­bly made by mem­bers of Aus­tralo­p­ithe­cus afaren­sis, the team says. Best known for Lucy, a par­tial skele­ton dis­cov­ered in Ethiopia in 1974, A. afaren­sis in­hab­ited East Africa from around 4 mil­lion to 3 mil­lion years ago.

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