Re: Little Foot

alex duncan (
5 Aug 1995 17:33:44 GMT

In article <3vr0ii$> HARRY R. ERWIN, writes:

>I just finished the article by Clarke and Tobias in the July 28 Science on
>the early hominid foot bones found at Sterkfontein. Their basic conclusion
>of arboreal capacity is based on the hallux being varus and strongly
>mobile. I seem to recall something about the A. afarensis hallux being
>varus in a book at home. (I'll dig it out tonight.) Is there much known
>about the A. afarensis cuneometatarsal joint? What about other primitive

In the 1982 Am. J. Phys. Anthrop., Latimer et al. describe the distal
articular surface of the 333 site medial cuneiform as being "markedly
convex." The articulating 1st metatarsal is strongly concave. (See also
Stern & Susman (1983) AJPA on this point.) Later on, Latimer & Lovejoy
pulled some nice measurement tricks to demonstate that abduction of the
hallux would not have been possible. Both of them view A. afarensis as
being incapable of climbing trees, and they tend to find ways to measure
things that support their views. For example, in 1990 (AJPA again) they
"demonstrate" that the articular set of the A. afarensis
metatarsophalangeal joints was "human-like." This is reasonably simple
thing to actually measure, but rather than measure it, they took the
approach of describing "what it looks like." I was somewhat disappointed
by their methodology, and actually did measure the articular set at the
joints, and found that it was intermediate between humans and African
apes (see Jan. 1994 AJPA).

If I ever find the time, I hope to go back and take a look at their
analysis of the medial cuneiform and 1st metatarsal. I suspect that they
worked long and hard to find a way to measure it that gave them the
results they wanted.

I've heard rumors that A. ramidus also has an abductable hallux.

Alex Duncan
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712-1086