These 3.7 million year old footprints left a hominin, not a bear

Forty years later, footprints reveal their true nature in Tanzania. These signs were discovered 3.7 million years ago and in 1978 by paleontologist Mary Leakey and her team at Lightoli. The site is known to have other sets of footprints commonly assigned to the species Australopithecus apheresis, That of the famous Lucy.

Experts initially assumed that this was also the case with the 1978 landmarks on Site A. But since the latter were very different from the others, suspicion remains about the person who left them Studies later suggest that they work on a young bear walking on its hind legs.

And then Site A fell into oblivion. “Given the growing evidence of species diversity and movement in hominin fossils over the last thirty years, these unusual footprints claim another look.Allison McNaught, an assistant professor at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University, explains.

Accompanied by an international team, the expert traveled to Laetoli to re-excavate and excavate five footprints in a row. They found evidence that they had been left behind by a hominin – including the presence of a large ankle and thumbprint.

Hominid, chimpanzee, black bear

After measuring, photographing and scanning the tracks, they compare them to others associated with black bears (Ursus American)Chimpanzees and modern humans (Homo sapiens) For the black bears, they used the young, semi-wild specimens they made to walk on their hind legs with maple syrup.

Their results were published in the journal this week Nature Shows that the plantigrades walked bilaterally for a very short time and their movements were very different. “When bears walk, they walk on very wide legs, swaying back and forth.Jeremy DeSilva, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College and co-author of the research, deciphered.

Researchers walked on the backs of young bears to compare prints. Jeremy DeSilva / Allison McNaught

They are unable to keep a movement like the A-site print, because the muscles of their buttocks and the shape of their knees do not allow them this kind of movement and balance.“, He continued a press release. Observations also show that the shapes of the prints do not match.

They conducted a similar analysis using tracks left by young semi-wild chimpanzees. Again, obvious differences emerge. Chimpanzees, like bears, have relatively thin heels compared to the front of their feet. Site A’s footprint shows a relatively wide heel.

An abnormal movement

These conclusions support the original interpretation of footprints: they were left by a hominin. One person, however, is smaller than the one who left the other mark. And with a rather unusual movement. This series actually depicts what scientists call “cross-stepping” in English, the truth of walking with one foot in front of the other.

Although people do not usually walk this way, this movement can occur when someone tries to restore their balance.“, Explained Allison McNaught.”Site A footprint can be the result of walking through an area with an uneven surface

Doubts remain as to the exact identity of this species of hominin. Although the team does not believe itAustralopithecus afarensis. This suggests that 3.7 million years ago different species of Australopithecus or others could have mated and walked in this region.

We have had this evidence since the 1970s All it takes is a rediscovery of these great footprints and a more detailed analysis to get us here.“, Concludes Alison McNaught.

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