May 23, 2017 12:56 PM EDT
An analysis of 3.3 million-year-old fossil skeletons by scientists revealed the link of the complete spinal column of any early human relative. This includes the vertebrae, neck, and rib cage.
According to an article published by Phys.org, the fossil named "Selam" is a nearly complete skeleton of a two-and-one-half-year-old child. Selam is found in Dikika, Ethiopia last 200 by Zeresenay Alemseged, a professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and the lead author of this study.
In the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled "Thoracic vertebral count and thoracolumbar transition in Australopithecus afarensis," it indicated that the portions of the human spinal structure would enable efficient walking motions were already established millions of years ago on fossil than what was previously thought. It is also believed that Selam is an early human relative from the species Australopithecus afarensis.
The Australopithecus afarensis is the species of the famous Lucy fossil. Ever since Selam was discovered, Alemseged and his lab assistant from Kenta have been preparing the delicate fossil at the National Museum of Ethiopia.
They chipped away at the sandstone surrounding the fossil and used advanced imaging tools in order to analyze its structure. "Continued and painstaking research on Selam shows that the general structure of the human spinal column emerged over 3.3 million years ago, shedding light on one of the hallmarks of human evolution," Alemseged said.
The fossil scans show that Selam had a distinctive thoracic-to-lumbar joint transition that could be found on the other skeletons of human relatives. However, the specimen is the first to show that the humanity's earliest ancestors had only twelve thoracic vertebrae and twelve pairs of ribs. This configuration allows the transition of people from having the spinal column that would help in having an efficient walk and run.
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