Humans had a longer walking history: Study

Humans had a longer walking history: Study

Until now it was believed that the ability to walk upright on two legs evolved around 1.9 million years ago. But researchers have discovered human-like footprints dating back almost 3.7 million years.

The 11 prints, preserved in rock sediment in Laetoli, Tanzania, display a gait more like that of modern humans than the awkward upright walking posture adopted by chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas, the ‘Daily Mail’ reported.

The footprints are thought to have been left by Australopithecus afarensis, a primitive early human that may be a direct ancestor of everyone living today.

The researchers compared their analysis of the prints with data from footprint studies of modern humans and apes. Computer simulations were also used to predict what kind of footprints would have been formed by different gaits.

Lead researcher Prof Robin Crompton said: “It was previously thought that Australopithecus afarensis walked in a crouched posture, and on the side of the foot, pushing off the ground with middle part of the foot, as today’s great apes do.

“We found, however, that the Laetoli prints represented a type of bipedal walking that was fully upright and driven by the front of the foot, particularly the big toe, much like humans today, and quite different to bipedal walking of chimpanzees and other apes.

“Quite remarkably, we found that some healthy humans produce footprints that are more like those of other apes than the Laetoli prints.”

The research suggests the ability to walk in a modern human way evolved almost four million years ago in a species thought to have spent at least some of the time in trees.

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