Researchers have found that an extinct species of primates who walked thousands of years ago had indistinguishable footprints similar to those of a modern day human.
In the study, an international team of scientists examined a set of 1.5-million-year-old footprints of Homo erectus, discovered at a site near the town of Ileret in Kenya in 2009.
Continued work, since the initial discovery by scientists has revealed an unprecedented set of trace fossils of hominin, including a total of 97 tracks created by at least 20 different presumed Homo erectus individuals from five distinct sites.
The footprints revealed new insight on how they moved and interacted.
Habitual bipedal locomotion is a defining feature of modern humans compared to other primates, the researchers said.
Using an experimental approach, the researchers have found that the shapes of their footprints are indistinguishable from those of modern habitually barefoot people, most likely reflecting similar foot anatomies and foot mechanics.
“Our analyses of these footprints provide some of the only direct evidence to support the common assumption that at least one of our fossil relatives at 1.5 million years ago walked in as much the same way as we do today,” said Kevin Hatala, Paleoanthropologist at Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Germany.
Further, there is evidence of several adult males at each of the sites, suggesting these groups had developed tolerance and may be even cooperation.
“It isn’t shocking that we find evidence of mutual tolerance and perhaps cooperation between males in a hominin that lived 1.5 million years ago, especially Homo erectus, but this is our first chance to see what appears to be a direct glimpse of this behavioural dynamic in deep time,” Hatala added.