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Химия Becoming Bipeds
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Without exception, living nonhuman primates habitually move around on all fours, or quadrupedally, when they are on the ground. Scientists generally assume therefore that the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees (our closest living relative) was also a quadruped. Exactly when the last common ancestor lived is unknown, but clear indications of bipedalism—the trait that distinguished ancient humans from other apes—are evident in the oldest known species of Australopithecus, which lived in Africa roughly four million years ago. Ideas about why bipedalism evolved abound in the paleoanthropological literature. C. Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University proposed in 1981 that two-legged locomotion freed the arms to carry children and foraged goods. More recently, Kevin D. Hunt of Indiana University has posited that bipedalism emerged as a feeding posture that enabled access to foods that had previously been out of reach. Peter Wheeler of Liverpool John Moores University submits that moving upright allowed early humans to better regulate their body temperature by exposing less surface area to the blazing African sun.

The list goes on. In reality, a number of factors probably selected for this type of locomotion. My own research, conducted in collaboration with my wife, Marcia L. Robertson, suggests that bipedalism evolved in our ancestors at least in part because it is less energetically expensive than quadrupedalism. Our analyses of the energy costs of movement in living animals of all sizes have shown that, in general, the strongest predictors of cost are the weight of the animal and the speed at which it travels. What is striking about human bipedal movement is that it is notably more economical than quadrupedal locomotion at walking rates.

For hominids living between five million and 1.8 million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch, climate change spurred this morphological revolution. As the African continent grew drier, forests gave way to grasslands, leaving food resources patchily distributed. In this context, bipedalism can be viewed as one of the first strategies in human nutritional evolution, a pattern of movement that would have substantially reduced the number of calories spent in collecting increasingly dispersed food resources. Indeed, modern human hunter-gatherers living in these environments, who provide us with the best available model of early human subsistence patterns, often travel six to eight miles daily in search of food.


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  • - Becoming Bipeds

    Without exception, living nonhuman primates habitually move around on all fours, or quadrupedally, when they are on the ground. Scientists generally assume therefore that the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees (our closest living relative) was also a quadruped. Exactly when the last common ancestor lived is unknown, but clear indications of bipedalism—the trait that distinguished ancient humans from other apes—are evident in the oldest known species of Australopithecus, which... [читать подробенее]