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The mystery of human bipedality

The mystery of human bipedality


Bipedality, the ability to walk upright on two legs, is a hallmark of human evolution. Many primates can stand up and walk around for short periods of time, but only humans use this posture for their primary mode of locomotion. Fossils suggests that bipedality may have begun as early as 6 million years ago. But it was with Australopithecus, an early hominin who evolved in southern and eastern Africa between 4 and 2 million years ago, that our ancestors took their first steps as committed bipeds. Yet scientists still know little about the circumstances that led to this trait’s emergence. Carol Ward, a paleoanthropologist and anatomist at the University of Missouri, studies this question. A specialist in human origins, Ward has spent a number of field seasons at various paleontological sites, including at Kanapoi and Lomekwi in West Turkana, Kenya, where she and her colleagues recovered australopithecine fossils. Her latest work repurposes 3D medical-imaging technologies to compare…
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