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Scientists suggest that ‘mysterious’ footprints from 3.7 million years ago found in Africa could belong to an unknown hominid

Posted: Dec 2, 2021 11:49 GMT

They were discovered in the 1970s; however, due to their morphology, it was suspected that they belonged to bears.

An international team of researchers has found new evidence to suggest that the series of five ‘mysterious’ fossil footprints discovered in 1976 in Laetoli, Tanzania by well-known British anthropologist Mary Leakey, were probably left by an unknown bipedal hominid some time ago. 3.7 million years, and not by a bear or another type of animal, as some scientists put it.

According to the University of Dartmouth (USA), the fossils in question were located in the Laetoli A deposit, close to G, where in 1978 Leaky discovered a set of footprints associated with ‘Australopithecus afarensis’, considered as the “Oldest unequivocal evidence of upright gait in human lineage”.

Despite the fact that the fossils were discovered in an area and in the same stratum in which other primitive hominid remains have been found, due to the sequence of the marks, their size and the irregular shape they present, the researchers suspected they were left behind. by a young bear that walked upright on its hind legs, so they were of no interest to the British anthropologist.

After analyzing a series of 3D images and impressions of the footprints, the academics were able to identify heel and thumb marks, which matched the distinctive proportions of primates. In the same way, the scientists compared the biomechanics of the gait of a group of young black bears with that of modern humans and chimpanzees, discovering that the shape, depth and proportions of the impressions left by the animals when walking, do not correspond to that of the Laetoli fossils.

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Considering the area and the stratum in which they were found, it is suspected that the footprints could have been made by young Australopithecus afarensis; However, this hypothesis is weakened by the morphological differences between the excavated remains from site A with those recovered from G and S, opening the possibility that they belong to another species, so it is necessary to continue with the investigations to determine exactly to what class of hominid they correspond.

“Thanks to this study, we now have conclusive evidence from the footprints at Site A that there were different species of hominids that walked bipedally in this landscape, but differently with different feet,” said Jeremy DeSilva, co-author of the paper. published this Wednesday in Nature, in which the results of the investigation are detailed.

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Donna Miller

Donna is one of the oldest contributors of Gruntstuff and she has a unique perspective with regards to Science which makes her write news from the Science field. She aims to empower the readers with the delivery of apt factual analysis of various news pieces from Science. Donna has 3.5 years of experience in news-based content creation, and she is now an expert at it. She loves journalism, and that is the reason, she moved from a web content writer to a News writer, and she is loving it. She is a fun-loving woman who has very good connections with every team member. She makes the working environment cheerful which improves the team’s work productivity.

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