Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Chewie, Lucy’s Imaginary Big Brother, Left Footprints in Tanzania

The new footprints are a bit bigger than these. Image courtesy of Momotarou2012, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Joel Kontinen

There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact,” Mark Twain wrote over a century ago.

It seems that nothing much has changed since then. Scientists made up an entire species (Nebraska Man) on the basic of a single tooth.

Now they have invented a hominid on the basis of footprints found at Laetoli in Tanzania.

A news article in Nature adds some dramatic effects into the story:

The sound was more like a squish than a thud, as the tall male australopith strode across the East African savannah. A volcanic eruption had left a patina of grey ash underfoot, while rainstorms that followed transformed the earth into wet cement. Squish, squish. Four smaller individuals walked not far behind. Squish, squish, squish. Later, ash rained down from the sky again, covering their tracks for 3.66 million years.”

Reported in a paper published in eLife, the tracks are near the very famous footprints that prompted evolutionists to speculate that Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) walked on two feet just like us.

However, there is no fossil evidence in support of this claim. We simply don’t know what Lucy’s feet looked like, as the foot bones are still missing.

The new “individual” is called Chewie, and he is assumed to be 165 cm (5 feet 5 inches) tall, making him two heads taller than Lucy.

How did they come up with this figure? The largest footprint is 27 cm (10.6 inches) long, with some smaller ones, prompting New Scientist to speculate that early humans had multiple wives.

And his discoverers are convinced that like Lucy, he is an Australopithecus.

I wouldn’t be so sure.


Anon. 2016. Meet Chewie, the biggest Australopithecus on record. Nature News (14 December).