An international group of anthropologists has presented to the scientific world a discovery that has involved more than two decades of work in a cave in South Africa and in the laboratory. It is a female hominid nicknamed "Little Foot", which is the best preserved fossil skeleton of the Australopithecus Prometheus species.
The sample, found and reconstructed bone by bone, had reached an advanced age on the day of his death. The first four fragments of his skeleton were located by scientist Ronald Clarke, of the South African University of Witwatersrand in 1994, inside one of Sterkfontein's caves, north-west of Johannesburg.
They were the small bones of a foot and were believed to belong to a monkey, Clarke said exclusively to New Scientist magazine on Thursday. Because of the resemblance they had with those of the known australopithecines, the research continued and three years later other fossil parts were found enclosed in a rock.
When the archaeologists began to dig, the bones easily detached and then decided to separate them from the rock using only a trace of air, an instrument that shoots a thin stream of pressurized air.
"I spent 20 years getting this skeleton, finding it in the rock in the deep darkness of the cave, locating each bone and then cleaning it enough to identify them [todos] in the cave, undermine them and take them out in blocks, "Clarke said.
At the end of this work the scientist had a complete skeleton of 90%. The result is particularly evident in comparison with the most famous Australopithecid female, which archaeologists unearthed in 1974 in Ethiopia and they called "Lucy".
& # 39; Lucy & # 39; it was 40% complete and dated to 3.2 million years, while the South African fossil 3.67 million years old, as revealed by the post-exhumation survey. "Little Foot" was about 20 centimeters taller than "Lucy": 130 centimeters in height. Anthropologists have also estimated that the two belong to different species of australopithecines.
Clarke also highlights features such as a flat face in "Little Foot", the larger teeth in general and the farthest upper tusks of the incisor teeth. The female I only ate plants, experts say.
Half-biped and traumatized
Historically, the South African is the first hominid specimen of which we have evidence that his lower limbs were longer than the upper ones. However, scientists do not use the terms "legs" and "arms" to designate them and state that being anthropoid was only on the biping path.
The female of Australopithecus Prometheus It was not so nice to carry items like us, assessed another member of the research group, Robin Crompton, of the University of Liverpool. On the other hand, he had better skills to climb trees than modern humans.
Anthropologists presented "Little Foot" to the public for the first time at the beginning of 2017. This week they published new data on their skeleton. The hominid lived most of his life consequences of a serious injury. His left forearm presented a "bilateral asymmetry" and there were also other deformations. The researchers realized that he fell on the extended limb in his youth.