During the past 100 years, scientists have tossed around a great many hypotheses about the evolutionary route to bipedalism, to what inspired our prehuman ancestors to stand up straight and amble off on two feet.
Now, after an extensive study of evolutionary, anatomical and fossil evidence, a team of paleoanthropologists has narrowed down the number of tenable hypotheses to explain bipedalism and our prehuman ancestors' method of navigating their world before they began walking upright.
The hypothesis they found the most support for regarding the origin of bipedalism is the one that says our ancestors began walking upright largely in response to environmental changes – in particular, to the growing incidence of open spaces and the way that changed the distribution of food.
In response to periods of cooling and drying, which thinned out dense forests and produced "mosaics" of forests, woodlands and grasslands, it seems likely that "some apes maintained a
forest-oriented adaptation, while others may have begun to exploit forest margins and grassy woodlands," said paleoanthropologist Brian Richmond, lead author in the new study. The process of increasing commitment to bipediality probably involved "an extended and complex opening of habitats, rather than a single, abrupt transition from dense forest to open savanna," he said.
Richmond, from the University of Illinois, with anthropologist David Begun from the University of Toronto and David Strait from the department of anatomy at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, describe their findings, which involved a comprehensive review and analyses of the five leading hypotheses on the origin of bipedalism, in a recent issue of the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. Other hypotheses that remain viable, according to the team: "freeing" the hands for carrying or for some kind of tool use, and an increased emphasis on foraging from branches of small fruit trees, which is the context in which modern chimpanzees spend the most time on two legs.
For their study, the researchers combined data from biomechanics – movement and posture, pressure distributions and strain gauge – and from finger-shape growth and development. They found that our prehuman ancestors had terrestrial features in the hands and feet, climbing features throughout the skeleton, and knuckle-walking features in the wrist and hand; that finger curvature is responsive to changes in arboreal activity during growth. Evidence from the wrist joint, in particular, "suggests that the earliest humans evolved bipedalism from an ancestor adapted for knuckle-walking on the ground and climbing in trees."
The YPA article, according to Richmond, is "the first attempt in decades to bring together all of the available evidence for the argument that the earliest human biped evolved from ancestors that both knuckle-walked and climbed trees, rather than from ancestors living exclusively in trees and 'coming down from the trees,' or walking on the ground in ways similar to modern baboons."
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express
Climate Change Appears To Be Having A Global Impact On Life
University Park - Apr 22 2002
A comprehensive summary has revealed, for the first time, the dramatic extent of disruptions now being experienced by Earth's species as a result of global warming. The extensive report compiles the results of over 100 research studies on the effects that recent climate changes have had on animals and plants throughout the world.
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|