Scientist Ronald Clarke of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa recently classified a new species of early human, according to New Scientist. Clarke analyzed a 3.67 million-year-old skeleton fossil (nicknamed “Little Foot”) that he discovered in 1994 in the Sterkfontein Cave in South Africa, and found that it had several characteristics that did not fit into the classification Australopithecus africanus—a group of hominins that includes famed fossil “Lucy.” Instead, Clarke argues that Little Foot is an entirely new species (A. prometheus) based on factors such as distinctive bone structure and its plant-based diet. “There are many, many differences, not only in the skull but also in the rest of the skeleton,” Clarke said. “A. africanus was more omnivorous.” Clarke also identified Little Foot as an elderly female that had longer legs than arms—an indicator of bipedalism. Four scientific papers about Clarke’s discovery are currently under peer review.
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