The famed australopithecine “Lucy” might have run into more than just her own species when she roamed Eastern Africa 3.2 million years ago. Paleontologists from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History have discovered eight small foot bones in Ethiopian sandstone that date back 3.4 million years. The bones most likely belonged to a hominin, one more in the group of human ancestors and humans, including us and our close relatives (Homo spp.), all of the australopithecines, and other ancient human relatives. The foot fossils had upright toe joints like Lucy’s, indicating that this species walked on two feet. However, due to a divergent big toe, much like that of a chimpanzee, this unknown species probably was very adept at climbing trees. Lucy’s big toe was more in line with the other toes on her feet – more like ours. Scientists are still unsure if the new Ethiopian hominin lived during the period of time in which australopithecines like Lucy (formally known as Australopithecus afarensis) walked the Earth, but the closeness in age of Lucy’s bones and these new foot fossils is providing evidence to support the widely believed theory that in ancient times, a diversity of human-like species shared the Earth.

Read more at ABC News online.

Find the original article in the journal Nature.

Read more about Lucy at the Smithsonian Institution website.

Published On: May 8, 2012

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