an African hominid that lived between around 2.3 million and 1.2 million years
ago, may have strong-armed its way into stone-tool making with a deft touch.
That’s the implication of the first hand, arm and shoulder
fossils discovered from the same P. boisei
individual, say paleobiologist David Green and colleagues. The fossils suggest
that this extinct species combined powerful arms suited to tree climbing with
grasping hands capable of fashioning stone implements, the researchers
report in the April Journal of Human
P. boisei, a distant cousin to modern
humans, lacked a thick, powerfully gripping thumb characteristic of its hominid
contemporary, Homo erectus (SN: 3/24/15), a prolific maker of
sophisticated stone tools. But the newly described hand bones suggest that P. boisei gripped well-enough to make
and use simple stone and bone tools, just as other
members of the human evolutionary family may have as early as 3.3 million
years ago (SN: 5/20/15). That’s long
before the emergence of the Homo genus,
which appeared around 2.8 million years ago. But reports of tool-making before Homo originated are controversial.
“This is the first evidence that creatures that were almost
certainly not our direct ancestors could have made tools,” says
paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University in Washington,
D.C. “So we can no longer assume — nor should we ever have assumed — that only Homo could make tools,” says Wood, who
was not involved with the new research.