Evolution of Walking: Why Early Humans Took to Two Feet
Archaeologists from the University of York claim to have discovered new evidence that challenges the evolutionary path early humans took to begin walking upright.
The team points to a new factor in the evolution of walking with their study in the journal Antiquity—the ground they walked upon. They theorized that the landscape, and not the climate, of East and South Africa, shaped by volcanoes and shifting tetonic plates prompted early humans to take to two feet.
"Our research shows that bipedalism may have developed as a response to the terrain, rather than a response to climatically-driven vegetation changes," study co-author Isabelle Winder from the University of York's archaeology department said.
"The broken, disrupted terrain offered benefits for hominids in terms of security and food, but it also proved a motivation to improve their locomotor skills by climbing, balancing, scrambling and moving swiftly over broken ground - types of movement encouraging a more upright gait," Winder added.
Previous theories suggested that early humans were forced from the trees because climate change altered tree cover, not because the rocky terrain below offered them the chance to find new shelter, trap prey and 'practice' their locomotor skills.
While these early hominids were working out the upright gait, it is unlikely they developed the ability to run until later excursions on surrounding flat plains a few million years later, according to Winder.
"This study is the first to successfully explain how our ancestors lived during this period and why they evolved as they did," she said.