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Study Suggests Hominin Could Walk and Swing Through Trees

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Little Foot ShoulderJOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA—Gizmodo reports that a new study of a human ancestor's shoulder blade and collarbone suggests that Australopithecus prometheus was able to swing through trees some 3.7 million years ago. Discovered in South Africa in the 1990s, the fossilized remains of an individual known as "Little Foot" were carefully excavated from concrete-like rock over a period of 15 years. Previous studies of Little Foot’s anatomy indicate the early hominin was able to walk upright and move its head in ways that are useful for climbing. A computer tomography scan of the pectoral girdle fossils at the University of the Witwatersrand allowed researchers to create a digital image of what Little Foot’s shoulder would have looked like, and then compare it to the shoulders of other primates. “By understanding how the shoulder joints of early hominins are structured, and more broadly how their shoulder blades are capable of moving on their torsos, we can understand how they used their upper limbs while interacting with the environment,” explained biological anthropologist Kristian Carlson of the University of Southern California. Overall, it appears that although Little Foot had human-like adaptations in its lower body, it had ape-like structures in its upper limbs. For more on Little Foot, go to "Sticking Its Neck Out."

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