Anthropologist Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institue and colleagues discovered a near-complete fossilized remain of a 3.3 million yea old human-like child, named the Dikka girl:
The find consists of the whole skull, the entire torso and important parts of the upper and lower limbs. CT scans reveal unerupted teeth still in the jaw, a detail that makes scientists think the individual may have been about three years old when she died.
"In my opinion, afarensis is a very good transitional species for what was before four million years ago and what came after three million years," Dr Alemseged told BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh.
"[The species had] a mixture of ape-like and human-like features. This puts afarensis in a special position to play a pivotal role in the story of what we are and where we come from."