Human-like walking mechanics evolved before the genus Homo

phys.org | 4/23/2018 | Staff
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Ever since scientists realized that humans evolved from a succession of primate ancestors, the public imagination has been focused on the inflection point when those ancestors switched from ape-like shuffling to walking upright as we do today. Scientists have long been focused on the question, too, because the answer is important to understanding how our ancestors lived, hunted and evolved.

A close examination of 3.6 million year old hominin footprints discovered in Laetoli, Tanzania suggests our ancestors evolved the hallmark trait of extended leg, human-like bipedalism substantially earlier than previously thought.

Footprints - Evidence - Past - David - Raichlen

"Fossil footprints are truly the only direct evidence of walking in the past," said David Raichlen, PhD, associate professor at the University of Arizona. "By 3.6 million years ago, our data suggest that if you can account for differences in size, hominins were walking in a way that is very similar to living humans. While there may have been some nuanced differences, in general, these hominins probably looked like us when they walked."

Raichlen will present the research at the American Association of Anatomists annual meeting during the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting, held April 21-25 in San Diego.

Species - Humans - Homo - Sapiens - Years

The species that comprises modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, emerged roughly 200,000-300,000 years ago. The genus Homo is thought to have emerged about 2-2.5 million years ago. The term hominin is used to refer to a broader set of ancestors that existed before that, although there is debate about the nature of the species included in that grouping and the relationships among them.

It is thought that hominins began walking on two legs around 7 million years ago, but based on the way other primates evolved, it is considered likely that these early ancestors retained a crouched, bent-legged walking posture for some time.

Raichlen - Team - Use - Variety - Methods

Raichlen and his team use a variety of methods to reconstruct walking mechanics based...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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