Archaeologists suppose that the impression were made most likely by Australopithecus afarensis when a group walked together across wet volcanic ash. The discovery was made close to where similar tracks were found in the 1970s in Laetoli, Tanzania.
Australopithecus were capable of walking upright on two legs, but we don’t know how much they resembled modern humans in the way they walked. The most famous individual of Australopithecus afarensis is “Lucy“, a young adult female who lived in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago. The marks portray several early hominins moving as a group through the landscape following a volcanic eruption and subsequent rainfall. The footprints of one of the new individuals are astonishingly larger than anyone else’s in the group, suggesting that he was a large male member of the species. The experts suggest that the newly discovered footprints may have been made by a male walking with smaller females. The footprint allows for reconstruction of his stature to 165 cm in height, which would make him the largest Australopithecus specimen identified to date.
The tracks were found during excavations for a museum only 150 metres south of the original discovery from 1976 at a site in Laetoli. Now it is believed that the two sets could belong together, giving clues to the lifestyle of Australopithecus. The finding of a male perhaps walking with several females could mean their social structure was closer to a gorilla-like model (one male and a number of females form a group) than to chimpanzees or modern humans.
(after BBC News, Sofia Menconero & Raffaella Pellizzon)