January 28, 2022

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Tanzania: Analysis of footprints provides new evidence for the origin of the erect gait in humans |  Science and Ecology |  DW

Tanzania: Analysis of footprints provides new evidence for the origin of the erect gait in humans | Science and Ecology | DW

Researchers at The Ohio University Heritage School of Osteopathic Medicine, noted Wednesday (12/01/2021) a comprehensive new examination of five footprints found in 3.66 million years ago volcanic ash in Tanzania — nearly half a century after their initial discovery. -, they showed that they were made not by a bear, as was believed, but by human ancestors.

From this, it is clear that human evolution and upright walking have more complex origins than those hitherto known, in large part because the footprints come from some kind of human lineage, perhaps a hitherto unknown species.

His inquisitive gait adds to the puzzle

Walking on two legs — walking on two legs — is a human trait, but scientists continue to piece together the mystery of how and when it began.

The pass was found in 1976 in a place called Laetoli, a desolate landscape northwest of Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania, 1.6 kilometers from two sets of fossil footprints found two years later. Those found in 1978 have been attributed to Australopithecus afarensis, human ancestors embodied in the famous skeleton discovered in Ethiopia nicknamed “Lucy”.

The study determined that different Laetoli’s footprints — made in days, hours, or perhaps minutes, in the same layer of ash — were created by two different hominin species.

Paleoanthropologist Eli McNutt of Ohio University’s Heritage School of Osteopathic Medicine, lead author of the study published in Nature, noted that Latuli’s footprints represent the oldest definitive evidence of bipedal locomotion in the human fossil record.

Paleontologist at Dartmouth College and study co-author Jeremy DeSilva said: ‘There were at least two hominins walking differently with differently shaped feet at this point in our evolutionary history, showing that the adoption of human gait was less linear than many imagine. “. . “In other words, throughout our history, there have been various evolutionary experiences of how to be bipedal,” he says.

Odd cross move

Tracks found in 1976 and re-excavated in 2019 presented different features than those found in 1978, notably a track called step intersection.

“The lane consists of five consecutive footprints on two consecutive feet. But the left foot intersects with the right foot, and vice versa. We still don’t know what this means,” de Silva said.

DeSilva added, “Cross-walkers sometimes occur in humans when walking on uneven ground. Perhaps that explains this strange gait. Or perhaps this hominin walked in a strange way, or perhaps it’s an unknown type of hominin that is well-adapted. Stop walking that way.” .

Based on the footprints, the researchers estimated that the person who made them was just over 1 meter tall, walked with a prominent heel, and had a large, slightly protruding toe, although not as tall as in chimpanzees.

E (Reuters/Natjew/Nature)