1.84 million fossil suggests unknown larger relative to humans.
Scientists digging in Africa have uncovered a fossil hand bone that belongs to what they are describing as an ancient human relative.
The bone, about 1.84 million years old, suggests its owner was much taller and larger than other known human-like contemporaries, this according to a report on nbcnews.com. This find is revealing new evidence of the time of the appearance of modern human like hands in the fossil records.
Most studies suggest that early hominins, which is a group of species like humans and their relatives, spent most of their time in trees. Ancient hominins hands had curved fingers, useful for hanging on limbs and climbing. Only modern humans have straight finger bones.
The characteristic of this new-found bone appear to show this species was adapted to living on the ground instead of tree life. It reinforces belief that many features of modern humans began to appear very early in the development of hominins.
The fossil is thought to be part of the little finger on the left hand of an adult, and is about 1.4 inches long, approximately the size of the same bone in our own hands. It was discovered in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, where previous excavations have lead scientists to believe this area was the beginning of humanity.
Most scientists believe the evolution of the straight bones in the hand came about by the use of stone tools, but this new evidence may suggest the story is more complex than previously thought. In some cases, the hand bones of earlier fossils are more like modern human hand bones than those of later fossil records.
The researchers say the ability to develop and use complex tools separates humans from other species, and it not only depends on having a powerful brain, but the dexterity of the hand to accomplish this.