‘Little Foot’ pushes back age of earliest South African hominids | Science News

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‘Little Foot’ pushes back age of earliest South African hominids

New dating suggests species lived during same era as Lucy

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1:00pm, April 1, 2015
Little Foot Fossil

OLD SOUTH  Researchers have dated Little Foot, a South African fossil skeleton that includes this skull, to 3.67 million years ago. If the new age holds up, it makes Little Foot the oldest known hominid in that part of Africa.

Lucy’s species, an East African hominid line called Australopithecus afarensis, had a South African counterpart, a new study finds.

A nearly complete fossil skeleton from South Africa’s Sterkfontein Caves dates to 3.67 million years ago, making it roughly 1 million years older than any other South African hominid, say geochemist Darryl Granger of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and his colleagues. Dubbed Little Foot by one of its discoverers, the skeleton represents a species originally proposed for fossils at a nearby site in 1948, Australopithecus prometheus, the scientists contend in the April 2 Nature.

Previous estimates of the specimen’s age ranged from roughly 3 million to 2 million years ago. The new date, if correct, would make Little Foot contemporary with Lucy’s species, which lived in East Africa from about 4 million to 3 million years ago.

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