Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lucy Had a Spring in Her Step

The petite 3.2-million-year-old skeleton called Lucy is one of the most famous and most complete of human ancestors. But she was found without her foot bones, so researchers have debated whether she walked as we do or retained some apelike adaptations for climbing in trees that altered her gait. Now, a 3.2-million-year-old foot bone from a member of Lucy's species, Australopithecus afarensis, reveals that this hominin was no flat foot: It had already evolved arches and a stiff midfoot similar to living humans. That means if Lucy were alive today, she could fit in high heels or march for miles without breaking her feet. "This discovery puts the spring back into afarensis's step," says co-author Donald Johanson of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe.

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