Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gibbon feet provide model for early human walking

15.12.2008
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that early humans could have walked successfully on a ‘flexible’ flat foot, similar to modern day gibbons.

The arched ‘rigid’ foot of modern humans – thought to have appeared approximately 1.8 million years ago – is best adapted for upright walking, but scientists have found that early humans once had ‘flexible’ feet and could have walked on the ground some years earlier.

Scientists originally thought that a flexible foot could have been ‘restrictive’ for humans learning to walk upright as it lacked the necessary power to push off the ground. To understand the mechanisms of the flexible foot, scientists studied the movements of gibbons – small apes living in the rainforest of South East Asia – which walk upright both on the ground and in the trees.

Dr Evie Vereecke, from the University’s School of Biomedical Sciences, explains: “Gibbons have a flexible joint mid-way along the foot that supports them in walking and climbing. Human ancestors also had this joint for tree dwelling and ground walking, but modern humans have now lost its flexibility in favour of a ‘rigid’ foot.

“To understand how successful or ‘restrictive’ the flexible foot might have been for early humans we set up a high-speed camera at Belgium’s Wild Animal Park to capture the gibbon’s foot movements. We built a computer model to digitise the footage we collected so that we could analyse the mechanisms employed in the foot and compare it to how humans walk today.

“We found that gibbons hit the ground with their toes first, similar to the ‘forefoot’ strike of professional sprint runners, which stretches the tendons in the toes. We also found that instead of lifting the foot at the end of a stride, the gibbon raised its heel first, making an upward arch and stretching the tendons in the sole of the foot.

“These stretched tendons allow storage of elastic energy and once the toe leaves the ground the tendons in the foot recoil, releasing the stored energy and generating the necessary propulsion to push off the ground and walk upright quite successfully.

“The structure of the modern human foot is different to the gibbon, but the energy storage mechanism is similar. The human foot is spanned by an elastic band along its sole which is stretched when we put our weight on it and stores elastic energy ready for release when the foot leaves the ground.”

The work - published in the Journal of Experimental Biology - shows that it is possible that human ancestors could have walked successfully with an upright-gait on a ‘flexible’ flat foot and may have similar energy storage mechanisms to modern humans.

Samantha Martin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.liv.ac.uk/newsroom

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University

nachricht What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization
06.12.2016 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores

07.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

Sea ice hit record lows in November

07.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

New material could lead to erasable and rewriteable optical chips

07.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>