Winter
2011

Discovery

Walk this way

Walk this way

A recent fossil discovery has given scientists new insight into some of humanity's earliest ancestors.

An international team led by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which included researchers from Case Western Reserve University, has published its research of a 3.6-million-year-old partial hominid skeleton discovered in Ethiopia's Afar region. The fossil belongs to the species Australopithecus afarensis, the same species as the Lucy fossil discovered in 1974.

The new find—nicknamed "Kadanuumuu," which means "big man" in the Afar language—predates his famous relative by about 400,000 years, and the analysis of the specimen has given scientists new clues into how the species lived and moved.

"This individual was fully bipedal and had the ability to walk almost like modern humans," says Yohannes Haile-Selassie, PhD, adjunct professor of anatomy, anthropology and cognitive sciences at the school and curator and head of physical anthropology at the museum. "As a result of this discovery, we can now confidently say that Lucy and her relatives were almost as proficient as we are walking on two legs, and that the elongation of our legs came earlier in our evolution than previously thought."