Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Foot of Homo floresiensis

W. L. Jungers1, W. E. H. Harcourt-Smith2, R. E. Wunderlich3, M. W. Tocheri4, S. G. Larson1, T. Sutikna5, Rhokus Awe Due5 & M. J. Morwood6

1. Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Stony Brook, New York 11794-8081, USA
2. Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York 10024, USA
3. Department of Biological Sciences, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
4. Humans Origins Program, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC 20013-7012, USA
5. National Research and Development Centre for Archaeology, Jakarta 12001, Indonesia
6. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia

Correspondence to: W. L. Jungers1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to W.L.J. (Email:

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Homo floresiensis is an endemic hominin species that occupied Liang Bua, a limestone cave on Flores in eastern Indonesia, during the Late Pleistocene epoch1, 2. The skeleton of the type specimen (LB1) of H. floresiensis includes a relatively complete left foot and parts of the right foot3. These feet provide insights into the evolution of bipedalism and, together with the rest of the skeleton, have implications for hominin dispersal events into Asia. Here we show that LB1's foot is exceptionally long relative to the femur and tibia, proportions never before documented in hominins but seen in some African apes. Although the metatarsal robusticity sequence is human-like and the hallux is fully adducted, other intrinsic proportions and pedal features are more ape-like. The postcranial anatomy of H. floresiensis is that of a biped1, 2, 3, but the unique lower-limb proportions and surprising combination of derived and primitive pedal morphologies suggest kinematic and biomechanical differences from modern human gait. Therefore, LB1 offers the most complete glimpse of a bipedal hominin foot that lacks the full suite of derived features characteristic of modern humans and whose mosaic design may be primitive for the genus Homo. These new findings raise the possibility that the ancestor of H. floresiensis was not Homo erectus but instead some other, more primitive, hominin whose dispersal into southeast Asia is still undocumented.

The paper link is above.

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