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Kellie Murphy

Human Origins
Teri Potter
01 Dec 2014
Bipedalism
It is believed that it has taken the human gait about ten million years to evolve (Napier
2014). The early hominid evolution timeline begins six million years ago (Jurmain, pg 219).
Approximately two to three million years ago the genus Homo made its first appearance to the
world (Johanson 2004, pg 473). Homo sapiens are of the genus Homo and are known for being
the only obligatory bipedal alive today. Homo sapiens are habitually bipedal. There were many
adaptations the Homo sapiens ancestors had to acquire to become bipedal as we are today.
Bipedalism is a type of locomotion that uses two feet. Having the ability to have a stride, run,
walk are a major part of bipedalism. Bipedalism in species evolved in a mostly linear fashion:
brachiation ancestor of hylobatid vertical climbing and a larger body ground knuckle
walking obligatory bipedalism (Harcourt-Smith 2004, pg 405). The main physical changes
that need to occur for bipedal locomotion is in the pelvis, legs, foot, and foramen magnum. The
pelvis changed to be broader, wider and shorter. The legs became longer than the arms, closer
together, and knees could fully extend. For the foot, the big toe came to be in line with the other
toes and arched. The foramen magnum evolved to be centered on the base of the skull (Jurmain,
pgs 201-204).
Adaptions to the brain size, which is seen in the cranial size in the bone, and in the postcranial are very important when it comes to the evolution of bipedalism. The Taung Child is an

Australopithecus africanus and was dated to be 2.5 million years old. It is an excellent example
to discuss brain size. What was left of the Taung Child was not much, but it speaks volumes. The
age that scientists believe the Taung Child to be is three to four years old. The brain case was not
fused together. This shows that it took longer for those in the Australopithecus africanus skull
did not fuse together until later in life. This was a surprise because other primates skulls would
fuse either before or shortly after birth (Barras 2012). The major adaptions needed were those
for the post-cranial. The adaptions of the post-cranial bones that are needed for bipedalism are
especially of the lower limbs such as the foot. Anatomy and function are very specialized in the
foot. The foot is the only part of the human body that has direct contact with the ground and is
very important when it comes to balance. (Harcourt-Smith 2004, pg 404). The toe moves from a
splayed out position, which was for grabbing branches in trees, to be in line with the other toes of
the foot. This is what helps with balance and being able to walk bipedal (Jurmain, pg 203).
Ardi is an Ardipithecus ramidus, which in the past has been under discussion about
whether or not it is of hominin or hominid. Ardi was excavated in 1994-1997 and was dated to
be 4.4 million years old (White 2014). Many scientists believe that the pointing toe of Ardi
makes it a hominin. Ardi has a lot of features that point to bipedalism. The limbs of post-cranial
show a combination of modern apes and humans. For example the flat feet and splayed big toe
would have helped for arboreal locomotion, but the stiffness of the foot and the smaller toes
being able to flex backwards would have been helpful for bipedalism. The distance between the
sacrum, which is the triangular bone at the base of the spine, and the hip bone is relatively short.
A similar bone is found in humans (Harmon 2013). Some of the features seen in Ardi are only
seen in the hominid line, for example the pelvis. Ardis pelvis is broad and short, as well as has
an extra bone that is for the support of a bipedal stride. The lower portion of the pelvis is very

much ape-like (Shreeve 2010). Ardis fingers were helpful for tree climbing in the way that they
were long and curved to help with grabbing branches. Although it is believed that they couldnt
swing very efficiently from tree to tree as the chimpanzees do. Another way that Ardi shows
bipedalism is that the foramen magnum is located more forward on the cranium (Harmon 2013).
Lucy is an Australopithecus afarensis that lived roughly 3.2 million years ago. She was
recovered in 1974. Lucy is believed to be the oldest species that Homo sapiens could have
evolved from. Lucy had a broad pelvis like modern humans do (Harmon 2013). Lucy had quite a
few markers to indicate that she was bipedal. For example, Lucy had a valgus knee. A valgus
knee is where the bone turns outward on the knee. She also had an elongated lateral femoral
condyle, which are the two masses that are located at the bottom end of the femur. Lucy was
capable of fully extend her knees which implies that she had a bipedal stance and locomotion.
She did have curved fingers and toes that also suggest she was partially arboreal. But these
features did not inhibit her of from full bipedal locomotion. The average cranial capacity for
Australopithecus afarensis such as Lucy is 478 cm (Johanson 2004, pg 476).
There are many adaptation made along the hominid line to evolve into the Homo sapiens
today. Once our ancestors were walking on their knuckles and living in the trees. The legs have
evolved to be longer than the arms, which led to walking on two legs. The pelvis changed shape
to become broader and shorter. Brain sized increased then actions and tasks we take as simple
today started to be used. Along with brain size the skull size increased as well. Ardi and Lucy are
two very famous fossils that were found that show parts of evolution into bipedalism and puts a
time frame to when bipedalism had become the way of locomotion. Finally, bipedalism is the
way that Homo sapiens move today, and there was millions of years that passed so that could be.