Have you ever wondered how the thumb, the most important finger in your hand, evolved? Scientists also wonder the same about the said finger, and they might finally have an answer to that question through this study modeling muscle in fossilized thumbs.
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It’s a “thorough, robust analysis,” says Tracy Kivell, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Kent who was not involved with the work. But she and others caution that the research is too preliminary to provide a true smoking gun.
Figuring out how ancient thumbs worked isn’t easy. Fossils don’t preserve muscles, so most previous attempts to estimate ancient dexterity relied on how closely our ancient relatives’ hand bones resembled our own. Hand bones are also small and relatively rare in the fossil record. But resemblance can be deceiving: Depending on how the muscles are connected, some species with similar bone anatomy might have very different grip strengths, and vice versa.
Learn more about the study over at Science Magazine.
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