It has been for a while since scientists were aware that the early ape-like hominid A. afarensis was part of our family tree, and walked on two feet.
Her almost complete skeleton was discovered in the Dikika region of Ethiopia in 2002 by Zeresenay Alemseged, paleontologist and professor of organismal biology and anatomy and the University of Chicago.
According to the lead author of the paper, Jeremy DeSilva from Dartmouth College, the features of Selam's foot seem to suggest that while being fully adapted to standing and walking on two feet, this infant A. afarensis could climb the trees easily.
Alemseged, a University of Chicago professor and senior study author, agrees: "The Dikika foot adds to the wealth of knowledge on the mosaic nature of hominin skeletal evolution".
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.
However, juvenile specimens of most human hominin ancestors are scarce, and thus, it has been hard to trace how important traits are selected in animals, over time. Selam lived in the region of Ethiopia with about 3.3 million years ago and belonged to an early human species, one of our ancestors, scientifically known as the Australopithecus Afarensis. "This is the most complete foot of an ancient juvenile ever discovered", stated the study's leading author Jeremy DeSilva from the Dartmouth College. Selam would have been similar in size to a chimpanzee that was about the same age - which meant she also depended on her mother. 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.
Selam's curved toe suggests that A. afarensis infants and toddlers were grasping their mother's body while being carried and were also climbing trees for food or protection, especially at night.
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Selam's foot was later discovered in 2002 and is about 2 inches (5.5 centimeters) long - that's a little shorter than a sticky note. Even with those abilities, she would have been better at walking than climbing.
The anatomy of Selam's foot was incredibly well-preserved, allowing the researchers to study how a toddler hominin would have walked.
At two-and-a-half-years-old, the Dikika child was already walking on two legs, but based on the skeletal structure of the child's foot, specifically the base of the big toe, show that the kid probably spent more time in the trees than adults.
A 2012 study of Selam's shoulder blade also showed the species would be effective when it comes to climbing.
Millions of years ago, ancient humans had toddlers who not only walked in a bipedal manner but could climb trees.
"Most of the fossil record consists of adults-it is unusual to find fossilized remains of children, and these give us wonderful insight into growth and development in our ancestors".