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Ancient Footprints Show Human-Like Walking Began Nearly 4 Million Years Ago

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posted on Jul, 21 2011 @ 02:23 AM

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that ancient footprints in Laetoli, Tanzania, show that human-like features of the feet and gait existed almost two million years earlier than previously thought.

Many earlier studies have suggested that the characteristics of the human foot, such as the ability to push off the ground with the big toe, and a fully upright bipedal gait, emerged in early Homo, approximately 1.9 million years-ago.

Liverpool researchers, however, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Manchester and Bournemouth University, have now shown that footprints of a human ancestor dating back 3.7 million years ago, show features of the foot with more similarities to the gait of modern humans than with the type of bipedal walking used by chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas.

4 million years ago? Wow.

If Im understanding the article correctly, the researchers originally thought these footprints belonged to "Australopithecus afarensis" until they ran some more tests.

"We found, however, that the Laetoli prints represented a type of bipedal walking that was fully upright and driven by the front of the foot, particularly the big toe, much like humans today, and quite different to bipedal walking of chimpanzees and other apes.

Then the article says that some "healthy" humans have more ape-like footprints than other humans. Does that mean some of us are evolving more than others (atleast in our feet)? Maybe im not understanding this part all too well.

"Quite remarkably, we found that some healthy humans produce footprints that are more like those of other apes than the Laetoli prints. The foot function represented by the prints is therefore most likely to be similar to patterns seen in modern-humans. This is important because the development of the features of human foot function helped our ancestors to expand further out of Africa.

I guess our footprint developments began in tree-living species?

Our work demonstrates that many of these features evolved nearly four million years ago in a species that most consider to be partially tree-dwelling. These findings show support for a previous study at Liverpool that showed upright bipedal walking originally evolved in a tree-living ancestor of living great apes and humans. Australopithecus afarensis, however, was not modern in body proportions of the limbs and torso.

Not sure if I understand all of this article too well, but its still pretty interesting
edit on 21-7-2011 by buni11687 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 21 2011 @ 02:38 AM
reply to post by buni11687
Very interesting article.

Understanding our own origins is a fascinating topic, though I'm not sure if this tree dwelling creature would be anywhere in the human ancestry. The article says it was, but how can they tell that just from a 4 million year old foot print? Couldn't it have been a footprint from an earlier hominid 4 million years ago that went extinct 3 million years ago? You're right that the article raises more questions than it answers.

Now if they can just find a fossil skeleton from this same creature, that may help solidify the assertion about how closely it was related to modern man.

posted on Jul, 21 2011 @ 02:47 AM
it's all in the toes.

opposable big toe for a tree dweller would be obvious.

which means we left the trees long before, if we were even in them.

posted on Jul, 21 2011 @ 02:50 AM
reply to post by Arbitrageur

Understanding our own origins is a fascinating topic, though I'm not sure if this tree dwelling creature would be anywhere in the human ancestry.

Trying to find out where we came from in the past seems to be getting more and more "pushed even farther into the past" (I cant think of the best word to use at the moment), every time a new study comes out.

I think there was a study some time ago where they thought the first human ancestors came from China. I think they nicknamed one of the skeletons they discovered, but im not sure.

This just seems like a field of study that keeps expanding more and more. I wonder what we will find out another 100 years from now?

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