Friday, 3 April 2015

Meet the latest member of the human evolutionary family tree - 'Little Foot'

Meet 'Little Foot', an Australopithecine discovered in the Sterkfontein cave system near Johannesburg in South Africa. 'Little Foot' was actually found by palaeoanthropologist Ronald Clarke nearly 20 years ago, but due to the fact that the skeleton is embedded in calcified rock, removing it has been a painstakingly slow process. What we do know is that it is one of the most complete hominin fossils to date, with around 90% of the skeleton intact.

We also know that it is quite old. Clarke and his colleagues have published an article in Nature [1] in which they state that 'Little Foot' at around 3.67 million years old. If this date is confirmed, this would place 'Little Foot' on a line ancestral to our species. Irrespective of the date, not only do we have yet another transitional fossil given its primitive skull, its more modern hands, and feet with ape-like and human-like features [2] but we have an astonishingly complete fossil. Special creationists who still peddle the claim that human evolution is based on a  handful of bone shards are hopelessly out of date. The genomic and fossil data confirm the reality of human-ape common ancestry, and show that our ancestry stretches back into the remote past, facts which our community can no longer honestly ignore.


1. Granger D.E. et al "New cosmogenic burial ages for Sterkfontein Member 2 Australopithecus and Member 5 Oldowan" Nature (2015) doi:10.1038/nature14268.

2. Balter M "'Little Foot' Fossil Could Be Human Ancestor" ScienceDaily 14th March 2014