EARLY HUMAN EVOLUTION -- NEW STUDY SHOWS "LITTLE FOOT" ONE OF MANY SPECIES OF AUSTR ALOPITHICENES AND 1/2 MILLION YEARS OLDER THAN "LUCY"
The research, published in the journal Nature, suggests that early hominids may have been far more diverse than previously thought.
Discovered in a cave in South Africa in the early 1990s, Little Foot (named for his tiny feet) was first thought to be about 4 million years old. But later estimates, based on minerals found in the same cave, placed him closer to 2.2 million years old. For years, scientists could not agree.
Now, an international team of researchers has turned to a dating technique that measures levels of aluminum and beryllium in the rock layer holding the fossil. Their conclusion: Little Foot is 3.67 million years old, about half a million years older than Lucy.
If accurate, the new estimate suggests that there may have been many different species of Australopithecus inhabiting a far greater range in Africa than previously thought.