Ancestors of humans who lived around three to two million years ago appear to have had the ability to use their hands in a very similar way to how we grip tools today, according to a new study from anthropologists.
Power "squeeze" gripping and forceful precision employed by humans were understood to relate to a reduction in tree-climbing and the manufacture and use of stone tools.
These two significant evolutionary changes in hand use, however, have now been detected in the early species of hominins known as Australopithecus africanus.
Boffins at the University of Kent worked with colleagues in London, Leipzig and Vienna to come up with research findings that they believe supports the claim that stone tool use was possible among fossil australopiths three-two million years ago.
The human and ape-like Australopithecus africanus species from South Africa was found to have a trabecular bone pattern in the bones of the thumb and palm, scientists said. This bone was consistent with forceful precision gripping that is typically associated with tool use by humans.
Example of a human forceful precision grip, grasping a Australopithecus africanus first metacarpal of the thumb.
Image credit: University of Kent's Tracy Kivell and Matthew Skinner
Chimpanzees, in contrast, do not have the same human-like hand posture ability.
The paper entitled Human-like hand use in Australopithecus africanus was published in the Science journal on Thursday. ®