Oldest ever human pinky fossil raises new questions about our ancient ancestors

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Researchers say OH 86, a fossil specimen found in Tanzania, could be the oldest example of a “modern human-like hand.” The fragment belonged to an unidentified member of the human family tree who lived over 1.84 million years ago, alongside Homo habilis and Paranthropus boisei. According to a study published in Nature Communications, the specimen could even belong to a yet-unknown human ancestor – one who adapted “modern” features earlier than its cousins.

OH 86, identified as part of a pinkie finger or “proximal phalanx,” was excavated from the fossil-rich Olduvai Gorge. According to lead author Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, even incomplete fossil specimens like OH 86 can be quite informative.

“By looking at a single proximal phalanx, we can understand the overall morphology of fingers,”  says Dr. Domínguez-Rodrigo, who is a co-director of the Institute of Evolution in Africa. “By understanding the morphology of fingers we can understand the morphology of hands.


“For human evolution, the new discovery shows the oldest hominin adapted to terrestrial [life] completely,” Domínguez-Rodrigo says. “This implies a creature using tools more frequently. This modern morphology is also documented in a hominin that is bigger than the other hominins previously known.”

Although OH 86 is nearly two million years old, analysis suggests that the complete hand had modern proportions. A great deal of fossil evidence found at Olduvai Gorge has been attributed to the smaller and more primitive H. habilis, but researchers say their yet-unnamed hominin may be their true source.

Read full, original post: What a fossil pinky reveals about human evolution

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