Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why Humans Began to Walk Upright

Taking it a step further the one environment that screams for haulage options happens to be the foreshore.  It is easy to get into the water, it is helpful to be able to wade as swimming is often impractical and most assuredly, the food gathered needs to be brought out on the the beach in order to be easily eaten.

Imagine a chimp like creature adapting to the foreshore successfully and we have bipedalism and subcutaneous fat as well a a salt shedding digestive system.  Such a creature then easily transitions back into the forest and plain with these new advantages and learns to exploit those environments.

On the plains it becomes a runner and sheds it hair and activates its capacity to sweat while never giving up its aquatic adjustments because it still uses them.  The aquatic interlude is a real proposition. The question was always about when it may have taken place.  Understanding what was been selected for puts us back to considering supportive niches and the foreshore does it nicely.  Exploiting the resource rich foreshore required serious adaptation and this logically happened before tool use became particularly practical.

It likely encouraged an expansion of socialization also though that was already well on the way.  I suspect our capacity to run is what allowed social expansion beyond the hunting band under a superior male.  It meant a much larger hunting ground and that meant a need to group more mouths together.

Why humans began walking upright

Last Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2012, 14:36

Washington: An international team of researchers have discovered that human bipedalism, or walking upright, may have originated millions of years ago as an adaptation to carrying scarce, high-quality resources.

The team of researchers from the U.S., England, Japan and Portugal investigated the behaviour of modern-day chimpanzees as they competed for food resources, in an effort to understand what ecological settings would lead a large ape - one that resembles the 6 million-year old ancestor we shared in common with living chimpanzees - to walk on two legs.

“These chimpanzees provide a model of the ecological conditions under which our earliest ancestors might have begun walking on two legs,” said Dr. Brian Richmond, an author of the study and associate professor of anthropology at the George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. 

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“Something as simple as carrying—an activity we engage in every day—may have, under the right conditions, led to upright walking and set our ancestors on a path apart from other apes that ultimately led to the origin of our kind,” he explained.

The research findings suggest that chimpanzees switch to moving on two limbs instead of four in situations where they need to monopolize a resource, usually because it may not occur in plentiful supply in their habitat, making it hard for them to predict when they will see it again.

Standing on two legs allows them to carry much more at one time because it frees up their hands. Over time, intense bursts of bipedal activity may have led to anatomical changes that in turn became the subject of natural selection where competition for food or other resources was strong.

The team conducted two studies in Guinea. The first study was in Kyoto University’s “outdoor laboratory” in a natural clearing in Bossou Forest. Researchers allowed the wild chimpanzees access to different combinations of two different types of nut—the oil palm nut, which is naturally widely available, and the coula nut, which is not.

The chimpanzees’ behavior was monitored in three situations: (a) when only oil palm nuts were available, (b) when a small number of coula nuts was available, and (c) when coula nuts were the majority available resource.

When the rare coula nuts were available only in small numbers, the chimpanzees transported more at one time. Similarly, when coula nuts were the majority resource, the chimpanzees ignored the oil palm nuts altogether. The chimpanzees regarded the coula nuts as a more highly prized resource and competed for them more intensely. 

In such high-competition settings, the frequency of cases in which the chimpanzees started moving on two legs increased by a factor of four. Not only was it obvious that bipedal movement allowed them to carry more of this precious resource, but also that they were actively trying to move as much as they could in one go by using everything available – even their mouths.

The second study, by Kimberley Hockings of Oxford Brookes University was a 14-month study of Bossou chimpanzees crop-raiding, a situation in which they have to compete for rare and unpredictable resources. Here, 35 percent of the chimpanzees’ activity involved some sort of bipedal movement, and once again, this behaviour appeared to be linked to a clear attempt to carry as much as possible at one time. 

This latest research was published in this month’s “Current Biology.”

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