Who have thought the discovery of a whole metatarsal could be so fascinating. However, this discovery can finally conclude whether Lucy had a dainty arch or was flat footed.
The head of the new fossil bone is twisted laterally in a distinctive way, similar to that seen in modern humans but quite unlike the untwisted metatarsals of apes. The twist demonstrates that Australopithecus afarensis must have had arched feet.
Although her braincase was very small and suggested that she could not talk, the result is as near as likely to get to final proof that Lucy could walk the walk of a modern human.
The discovered bone belonged to an early hominin- Australopithecus afarensis. The bone is estimated to be 3.2 million years old and from where the village of Hadar can be found today in Ethiopia.
Named Lucy, the most famous hominin fossil of them all, was a member of the same species; Lucy’s skeleton was uncovered in 1974.
The skeleton is roughly 40 per cent complete, but the metatarsals were still unfound and without the evidence that these small foot bones would provide, one would struggle to tell for certain whether Lucy was fully adapted to a life on two legs, or whether she was still a flat-footed little ape.
Carol Ward from the University of Missouri in Columbia who describe the fossil today in Science, the fourth metatarsal is the “key element… that differs between apes and humans and is therefore the best test of the presence of permanent longitudinal and transverse arches in the foot”.