Lucy and Salem are both part of the Australopithecus afarensis species (Photo : Flickr-Carlos Lorenzo)
A relative of the pre-hominid "Lucy," the 3.3 million year old Australopithecus afarensis named Selam, dwelled in the trees and walked upright on the ground, according to research published in the journal Science.
Discovery News notes that Salem represents the "most complete skeleton of her kind to date" and reports that her species were not the first human predecessor to walk upright. She was found in Etheopia, preserved in rock.
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Study co-author Zeresenay Alemseged states, "The fact that they still maintained the gorilla-like scapula, the long and curved fingers, the short clavicles, and a torso which would probably have been funnel shaped, is testament to the presence of an arboreal lifestyle in addition to being fully bipedal."
He relates Salem to an upright walking ape, and explains that she was "very human-like from the waist down - the hip bone, the knee and the foot - but looked ape-like above the waist -the torso, long arms, gorilla-like scapula, justting snout, small brain and a skull with no forehead."
David Green of the Midwestern University notes, "What we're showing is that bipedalism wasn't this sudden change that took shape is an early common ancestor."
Green adds, "Within this range of environments, Selam and her kin walked upright to move from one place to another, but also had an arboreal lifestyle that enabled them to nest in trees, evade predators, and provision themselves. This was a significant adaptation that enabled this short-statured horminin, with no sophisticated tools, to survive in a dangerous landscape filled with large felines and other carnivores."