Ancient 3-Year-Old Climbed Trees, Researchers Say

3 Million Years Ago, Toddler Could Walk Upright and Climb Trees

As scientists continue to explore the history of human evolution, a group of researchers found that some 3 million years ago, the children of our ancestors were able to stand on their feet, walk upright, and even climb trees.

"For the first time, we have an wonderful window into what walking was like for a two-and-a-half-year-old, more than three million years ago", said the study's lead author, Dr Jeremy DeSilva.

"Studying younger individuals is important because the morphology that you see in adults is the result of both their evolution through time and how they changed as they grew", Alemseged, senior author of the study, wrote in an email.

For reference, Lucy, the world's most famous fossil and another example of Australopithecus afarensis that lived 3.18 million years ago, was about 3½ feet tall and 60 pounds.

Back in 2002, archaeologists discovered a almost complete human skeleton, which turned out to be remains of a female toddler who lived in East Africa three and half million years ago but died before reaching the age of four. She belonged to the Australopithecus afarensis group of hominins, our distant relatives. In 2002, archaeologists discovered a well-preserved, partial skeleton of an infant A. afarensis, thought to be around 3-years-old at the time of death. Selam would have been similar in size to a chimpanzee that was about the same age - which meant she also depended on her mother. Such skills could be crucial in times of danger, allowing the child to escape the predator by either clinging to its mother or by climbing up the trees. Later, Selam was found just a few miles away from Lucy and was then given the nickname "baby Lucy", despite being alive around 200,000 years before Lucy.

Not surprisingly, Selam's foot presented very similar anatomy to that of modern humans.

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Over 3 million years ago, our ancient ancestors and their toddlers were standing on two feet and walking upright, it has been revealed.

This finding challenges the long-held assumption that A. afarensis was exclusively bipedal (using only two legs for walking) and only occasionally climbed into trees.

But when researchers analyzed the skeletal structure of Selam's foot, they noticed that the base of the big toe would have allowed her to be a great climber. Based on the skeletal structure of the child's foot, specifically, the base of the big toe, the kids probably spent more time in the trees than adults. She said Selam's foot is clearly adapted for walking on two feet and shows "how important life on the ground was for these animals, and that effective climbing was much less important".

Alemseged believes that all of this evidence combined shows what a critical, pivotal species afarensis was for human evolution.

Scientists started to study one of Selam's foot to find out more about how our ancestors walked.

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