Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ancient walking gets weirder

The simple act of walking continues to take strange detours among ancient human ancestors.
To wit, 1.5 million-year-old footprints excavated in Africa, initially thought to reflect a thoroughly modern walking style, were instead made by individuals that walked differently than people today do, researchers reported April 13 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. And findings presented April 12 at the meeting revealed the surprisingly apelike qualities of foot fossils from a 2 million-year-old species that some researchers regard as the root of the Homo genus.

These reports come on the heels of evidence that a previously unknown member of the human evolutionary family 3.4 million years ago possessed a gorillalike grasping big toe and an ungainly stride (SN Online: 3/28/12).

Depth measurements of the African footprints, discovered at Kenya’s Ileret site, differ at 10 landmarks from the footprints of people who live in that area today, said graduate student Kevin Hatala of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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