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Early parents didn't stand for weighty kids
Date:4/23/2008

Scientists investigating the reasons why early humans the so-called hominins began walking upright say its unlikely that the need to carry children was a factor, as has previously been suggested.

Carrying babies that could no longer use their feet to cling to their parents in the way that young apes can has long been thought to be at least one explanation as to why humans became bipedal.

But University of Manchester researchers investigating the energy involved in carrying a child say the physical expense to the mother does not support the idea that walking upright was an evolutionary response to child transportation.

Walking upright is one of the major characteristics that separates humans from their primate relatives, said Dr Jo Watson, who carried out the research in the Universitys Faculty of Life Sciences.

Scientists have long hypothesised as to the reasons why hominins became bipedal in a relatively short space of time but the truth is we still dont know for sure.

One of the more popular explanations is that walking upright freed our forelimbs allowing us to carry objects, including children; apes have no need to carry their young as they are able to grip using both hands and feet.

Our study focused on the amount of energy required to carry 10kg loads, including a mannequin child. Importantly, the distribution of the weight varied in each instance.

The team monitored the oxygen consumption of seven women, all healthy individuals under the age of 30, carrying either a symmetric load, in the form of a weighted vest or a 5kg dumbell in each hand, or an asymmetric load, which was a single 10kg weight carried in one hand or a mannequin infant on one hip.

Carrying an awkward asymmetric load, such as the infant on one side of the body, is the most energetically expensive way of transporting the weight, said Dr Watson, whose research is published in the Journal of Human Evolution.'/>"/>

Contact: Aeron Haworth
aeron.haworth@manchester.ac.uk
44-161-275-8383
University of Manchester
Source:Eurekalert  

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