Australopithecus is known to be the oldest ancestor of modern man. The oldest Australopithecus was found in the year 1974 in Ethiopia. The name of Australopithecus was Lucy. The age of Lucie is determined to be 3.2 million years old.
A new skeleton was found 21 years ago in South Africa, which was said to be older than Lucy. This skeleton is known as The Little Foot. It is 3.67 million years old and hence, it can be the first Australopithecus that existed.
In the area where Little Foot was found, other stone tools were also discovered that dated 2.18 million years and older. Little Foot was the discovery of Ronald Clarke, who is a professor in the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand.
According to him, “It demonstrates that the later hominids, for example, Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus did not all have to have derived from Australopithecus afarensis. We have only a small number of sites and we tend to base our evolutionary scenarios on the few fossils we have from those sites. This new date is a reminder that there could well have been many species of Australopithecus extending over a much wider area of Africa”.
According to Darryl Granger from the University of Purdue, the Little foot could easily be 2 to 4 million years old. This is the same time when Australopithecus used to live. In order to check the real age of the Little Foot, the team of Darryl Granger employed a dating technique that has been designed for the analysis of a solar wind sample by the genesis mission of NASA. The technique used in dating process is called Isochron burial dating. It makes use of radioisotopes into the rock samples along with the remains in order to find out the duration for which the rocks have been underground or kept away from the sunshine.
According to Granger, “If we had only one sample and that rock happened to have been buried, then re-exposed and buried again, the date would be off because the amount of radioisotopes would have increased during its second exposure. With this method we can tell if that has happened or if the sample has remained undisturbed since burial with the fossil. It is expensive and a lot of work to take and run multiple samples, but I think this is the future of burial dating because of the confidence one can have in the results,”
The original idea of little foot’s age that the researchers came out with was considered to be wrong. But rumors suggest that the second dating is appropriate.
The findings were published in the journal Nature.
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