Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Chimpanzees Shed Light on Origins of Human Walking

09.10.2015

Stony Brook-led research demonstrates how upper body motion contributed to walking proficiency in our early human ancestors

A research team led by Stony Brook University investigating human and chimpanzee locomotion have uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking.


Nathan Thompson, Lucille Betti-Nash, and Deming Yang

This image depicts pelvis and ribcage rotations during bipedal locomotion. Despite differences in overall motion, there is as much mobility between the pelvis and ribcage in humans as in chimpanzees, suggesting more human-like abilities in our earliest ancestors than previously thought.

The results, reported in Nature Communications, indicate that our early human ancestors, including the famous fossil ‘Lucy’ (a species known as Australopithecus afarensis), may have been able to use their torsos to increase walking efficiency in the same way as modern humans.

The torso (the part of the body that includes the ribcage, belly and pelvis) of chimpanzees has long been thought to be a rigid block, best suited for a life of tree climbing. Humans, on the other hand, have long and flexible torsos that aid in walking by allowing us to rotate our upper body in the opposite direction of our lower body.

The findings from the paper, titled “Surprising trunk rotational capabilities in chimpanzees and implications for bipedal walking proficiency in early humans,” changes the evolutionary view of how early human ancestors walked and what they were able to do.

“During walking, we actually observed as much rotation within the torsos of chimpanzees as in humans,” said Nathan Thompson, lead author and a PhD student in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University.

“This means that the widely accepted assumptions in the scientific community about how the chimpanzee torso works based on the skeleton alone are incorrect. Our results also point to the notion that a limitation to upright walking that we thought affected Lucy and other early human ancestors probably was not a limitation at all.”

The research team used high-speed cameras to track and compare how the torsos of humans and chimpanzees actually moved during bipedal walking. They studied the movements by way of three-dimensional kinematic analyses and computer-generated comparisons.

They discovered that the main difference between human and chimpanzee bipedalism is that chimps swing their hips much more.

“Only when our early ancestors were able to reduce this hip rotation were their upper bodies able to play a human-like role in promoting efficient bipedal walking,” said Thompson. “When this actual transition occurred is still an open question.”

There is a continuing debate about how the hips of our ancestors worked compared to ours.

“For instance, depending on who you ask, the 3.2 million-year-old Lucy fossil either rotated her pelvis exactly like modern humans or up to 2.5 times more,” he explained.

Given this uncertainty, the research team modeled the transition from a more chimp-like pattern of the upper body movement to that of a more human-like pattern. They found that even if Lucy rotated her pelvis 50 percent more than modern humans, her upper body would have functioned essentially like ours. This means that even as early as 3.2 million years ago Lucy might have been able to save work and energy in much the same way as humans do today.

“As we get a better idea of how our closest living relatives move, we are able to learn much more about the isolated piles of early human bones that the fossil record leaves us,” added Thompson. “Only then can we paint a complete picture of how we evolved into what we are today.”

Co-authors on the paper include Susan Larson, Brigitte Demes, and Nicholas Holowka of Stony Brook University, and Matthew C. O’Neill of the University of Arizona.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and The Leakey Foundation.

Contact Information
Gregory Filiano
Manager of Media Relations, School of Medicine
Gregory.Filiano@stonybrook.edu
Phone: 631-444-9343

Gregory Filiano | newswise
Further information:
http://www.stonybrook.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New way to look at cell membranes could change the way we study disease
19.11.2018 | University of Oxford

nachricht Controlling organ growth with light
19.11.2018 | European Molecular Biology Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Controlling organ growth with light

19.11.2018 | Life Sciences

New way to look at cell membranes could change the way we study disease

19.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>