The foot of Homo floresiensis

Nature. 2009 May 7;459(7243):81-4. doi: 10.1038/nature07989.

Abstract

Homo floresiensis is an endemic hominin species that occupied Liang Bua, a limestone cave on Flores in eastern Indonesia, during the Late Pleistocene epoch. The skeleton of the type specimen (LB1) of H. floresiensis includes a relatively complete left foot and parts of the right foot. These feet provide insights into the evolution of bipedalism and, together with the rest of the skeleton, have implications for hominin dispersal events into Asia. Here we show that LB1's foot is exceptionally long relative to the femur and tibia, proportions never before documented in hominins but seen in some African apes. Although the metatarsal robusticity sequence is human-like and the hallux is fully adducted, other intrinsic proportions and pedal features are more ape-like. The postcranial anatomy of H. floresiensis is that of a biped, but the unique lower-limb proportions and surprising combination of derived and primitive pedal morphologies suggest kinematic and biomechanical differences from modern human gait. Therefore, LB1 offers the most complete glimpse of a bipedal hominin foot that lacks the full suite of derived features characteristic of modern humans and whose mosaic design may be primitive for the genus Homo. These new findings raise the possibility that the ancestor of H. floresiensis was not Homo erectus but instead some other, more primitive, hominin whose dispersal into southeast Asia is still undocumented.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arm Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Body Size
  • Foot Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Fossils*
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Hominidae / classification
  • Humans
  • Indonesia
  • Leg Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Phylogeny
  • Tarsal Bones / anatomy & histology