New information presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology Conference showcased that our ancient ancestors might have walked like us.

Looking At Footprints

Dr. David Raichlen, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Arizona, has studied footprints of human ancestors, the genus Australopithecus, that were found in Laetoli, Tanzania. Through his research, Raichlen and his team found that the footprints were 3.6 million years old and were also made by bipedalism. In addition, they discovered that the genus Australopithecus, which made the footprint, was also part of the same species as "Lucy,"  the 3.2 million-year-old fossilized skeleton that scientists discovered in Ethiopia in 1974.

Raichlen's Experiment

For his experiment, Raichlen compared the genus Australopithecus' footprints to ones created by eight human volunteers. The volunteers were divided into two groups. Those in the first group walked in an upright position, while those in the second group were instructed to walk with both their knees and hips bent.

When Raichlen and his team investigated the footprints, they found that the footprints discovered in Laetoli, Tanzania matched the footprints that were made by the human volunteers who walked in an upright position. The researchers believed it was a changing environment that forced the earliest humans to evolve their style of walking.

According to them, the walking style change might have been linked to the way that early humans gathered food. Raichlen believed the data pointed out that during this phase in evolutionary history, energy expenditure during walking was strong.

"This work suggests that, by 3.6 million years ago, climate and habitat changes likely led to the need for ancestral hominins to walk longer distances during their daily foraging bouts. Selection may have acted at this time to improve energy during locomotion, generating the human-like mechanics we employ today," said Raichlen to Newsweek.

A History Of Footprints

Raichlen and his team are not the only group of scientists that have found evidence of early human footprints. Researchers from the Hakai Institute and Canada's University of Victoria published a study in PLOS ONE claiming that they found the earliest set of human footprints in North America. They were located in Calvert Island, British Columbia and were speculated to be 13,000-years-old.

In the fifth and sixth issues of the 128th volume of Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, a group of researchers discovered human-like footprints on the Grecian island of Crete. The scientists believed that the footprints were 5.7 million years old and were very similar to human feet.

On Dec. 14, 2016, eLife published a research study about the male species of the Australopithecus afarensis males. Scientists believed that the male Australopithecus followed a polygynous pattern of mating and that they had multiple female partners.

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