Modern humans are characterized by a highly specialized foot that reflects our obligate bipedalism. Our understanding of hominin foot evolution is, although, hindered by a paucity of well-associated remains. Here we describe the foot of Homo naledi from Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa, using 107 pedal elements, including one nearly-complete adult foot. The H. naledi foot is predominantly modern human-like in morphology and inferred function, with an adducted hallux, an elongated tarsus, and derived ankle and calcaneocuboid joints. In combination, these features indicate a foot well adapted for striding bipedalism. However, the H. naledi foot differs from modern humans in having more curved proximal pedal phalanges, and features suggestive of a reduced medial longitudinal arch. Within the context of primitive features found elsewhere in the skeleton, these findings suggest a unique locomotor repertoire for H. naledi, thus providing further evidence of locomotor diversity within both the hominin clade and the genus Homo.
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We also thank the Leakey Foundation, Boston University, NYCEP, and Lehman College CUNY for support. We particularly thank the National Geographic Society and the National Research Foundation for significant funding of the discovery, recovery and analysis of the Dinaledi material.
Harcourt-Smith, W. E. H.; Throckmorton, Z.; Congdon, K. A.; Zipfel, B.; Deane, Andrew S.; Drapeau, M. S. M.; Churchill, S. E.; Berger, L. R.; and DeSilva, J. M., "The Foot of Homo naledi" (2015). Neuroscience Faculty Publications. 37.