Carrying babies that could no longer use their feet to cling to their parents in the way that young apes can has long been thought to be at least one explanation as to why humans became bipedal.
But University of Manchester researchers investigating the energy involved in carrying a child say the physical expense to the mother does not support the idea that walking upright was an evolutionary response to child transportation.
“Walking upright is one of the major characteristics that separates humans from their primate relatives,” said Dr Jo Watson, who carried out the research in the University’s Faculty of Life Sciences.
“Scientists have long hypothesised as to the reasons why hominins became bipedal in a relatively short space of time but the truth is we still don’t know for sure.
“One of the more popular explanations is that walking upright freed our forelimbs allowing us to carry objects, including children; apes have no need to carry their young as they are able to grip using both hands and feet.
“Our study focused on the amount of energy required to carry 10kg loads, including a mannequin child. Importantly, the distribution of the weight varied in each instance.”
The team monitored the oxygen consumption of seven women, all healthy individuals under the age of 30, carrying either a symmetric load, in the form of a weighted vest or a 5kg dumbell in each hand, or an asymmetric load, which was a single 10kg weight carried in one hand or a mannequin infant on one hip.
“Carrying an awkward asymmetric load, such as the infant on one side of the body, is the most energetically expensive way of transporting the weight,” said Dr Watson, whose research is published in the Journal of Human Evolution.
“Unless infant carrying resulted in significant benefits elsewhere, the high cost of carrying an asymmetrical weight suggests that infant carrying was unlikely to have been the evolutionary driving force behind bipedalism.”
The study, carried out with colleagues at the Universities of Sheffield and Salford and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is part of a larger project, run by Dr Bill Sellers at The University of Manchester, which uses computer simulations to understand evolutionary processes, particularly the way in which we and other animals move.
Future plans are to extend this work to assess the energy cost of carrying in great apes. Computer models of early hominins carrying loads will also be built to try and evaluate whether their body shape and posture – long arms and short legs – would have made them noticeably better or worse at carrying than present-day humans. The research team hopes this will help build up a picture of how humans evolved to walk on two legs.
Aeron Haworth | alfa
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH
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...
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...
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...
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,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences
05.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
05.12.2016 | Life Sciences