New Laetoli Footprints and Hominin Body Size
This activity guides the analysis of a published scientific figure from a study that used footprints formed millions of years ago to estimate the heights of early human ancestors.
Laetoli is a paleontological site famous for its preserved hominin footprints, which are nearly four million years old. Hominins are a taxonomic group that includes humans and their extinct ancestors. In the 1970s, scientists at Laetoli discovered the footprints of three hominin individuals (G1, G2, G3). In 2015, the footprints of two more individuals (S1, S2) were found. The figure shows the statures (heights) of these and other hominins, as estimated from their footprints or fossils, and the map shows the locations where each footprint or fossil was found.
The “Educator Materials” document includes a captioned figure, background information, graph interpretation, and discussion questions. The “Student Handout” includes a captioned figure and background information.
Student Learning Targets
- Analyze and interpret data from a scientific figure.
- Compare variations and patterns in the traits of early human ancestors.
anthropology, bipedalism, fossil, human origins, Mary Leakey, paleontology, scatter plot, sexual dimorphism
Masao, Fidelis T., Elgidius B. Ichumbaki, Marco Cherin, Angelo Barili, Giovanni Boschian, Dawid A. Iurino, Sofia Menconero, et al. “New footprints from Laetoli (Tanzania) provide evidence for marked body size variation in early hominins.” eLife 5 (2016): e19568. https://doi.org/10.7554/elife.19568.
An annotated version of the article is also available from Science in the Classroom.
The resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. No rights are granted to use HHMI’s or BioInteractive’s names or logos independent from this Resource or in any derivative works.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS4-1, HS-LS4-3; SEP2, SEP4, SEP5
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-1.N, EVO-3.A; SP1, SP2, SP4
IB Biology (2016)
Common Core (2010)
Math.S-ID.3, Math.S-IC.1; MP2, MP5
Vision and Change (2009)
CC1; DP2, DP3