Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Origin Of Bipedalism Seems Most Closely Tied To Environmental Changes

Date:
May 9, 2002
Source:
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
After an extensive study of evolutionary, anatomical and fossil evidence, a team of paleoanthropologists has narrowed down the number of tenable hypotheses to explain the origin of bipedalism and our prehuman ancestors' method of navigating their world before they began walking upright.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- During the past 100 years, scientists have tossed around a great many hypotheses about the evolutionary route to bipedalism, and what inspired our prehuman ancestors to stand up straight and amble off on two feet.

Related Articles


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 the origin of 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 argues 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 at Urbana-Champaign, with paleoanthropologists David Begun from the University of Toronto and David Strait from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, describe their findings, which involved a comprehensive review and analysis 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, posture and stesses in bones and joints -- and from bone 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 bone curvature is responsive to changes in arboreal activity during growth, lending support to the hypothesis that many early hominid species, although bipedal, still climbed trees. Evidence from the wrist joint "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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Origin Of Bipedalism Seems Most Closely Tied To Environmental Changes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020509074029.htm>.
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. (2002, May 9). Origin Of Bipedalism Seems Most Closely Tied To Environmental Changes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020509074029.htm
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. "Origin Of Bipedalism Seems Most Closely Tied To Environmental Changes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020509074029.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins