Navigation Links
Was ability to run early man's Achilles heel?
Date:9/11/2007

The earliest humans almost certainly walked upright on two legs but may have struggled to run at even half the speed of modern man, new research suggests.

The University of Manchester study presented to the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) Festival of Science in York on Tuesday proposes that if early humans lacked an Achilles tendon, as modern chimps and gorillas do, then their ability to run would have been severely compromised.

Our research supports the belief that the earliest humans used efficient bipedal walking rather than chimp-like Groucho walking, said Dr Bill Sellers, who led the research in the Universitys Faculty of Life Sciences.

But if, as seems likely, early humans lacked an Achilles tendon then whilst their ability to walk would be largely unaffected our work suggests running effectiveness would be greatly reduced with top speeds halved and energy costs more than doubled.

Efficient running would have been essential to allow our ancestors to move from a largely herbivorous diet to the much more familiar hunting activities associated with later humans. What we need to discover now is when in our evolution did we develop an Achilles tendon as knowing this will help unravel the mystery of our origins.

Dr Sellers, who recently published research on the running speeds of five meat-eating dinosaurs, used the same computer software to generate a humanoid bipedal computer model using data from a hominid fossil skeleton called Lucy and hominid footprints preserved in ash at Laetoli in Tanzania.

The skeletons and footprints from some of the earliest members of the human lineage the early hominids provide the best clues we have to how we progressed down the pathway to modern human walking and running, said Dr Sellers.

We have borrowed techniques from other scientific disciplines - robotics, computer science and biomechanics - in an attempt to reverse engineer fossil skeletons; we use what we know about skeletons and the muscles to build a computer model of the fossil species we are interested in.

This model is a virtual robot where we can activate muscles and get it to move its legs in a physically realistic fashion; the tricky bit is getting it to actually walk or run without falling over.

However, if we use big enough computers and let the model fall over enough times it is possible for the simulation to learn which muscles to fire and when in order to get the model to walk properly. Even better we can ask the computer to find ways of minimising fuel cost and maximising top speed since that is what we think animals have to do.

Dr Sellers initially looked at walking and his models suggested that even as early as 3.5 million years ago our human ancestors were able to walk as efficiently as modern humans. His research also showed that they preferred to walk a little slower than we do but only because they were much smaller and had quite short legs.

The team also used the computer model to look at particular parts of the human locomotion system, including the Achilles tendon, which they showed acts like a big spring to store energy during running; when the tendon was removed from the model the top running speed was greatly reduced.

We have only just started to look at running and so there are still plenty of questions to answer, said Dr Sellers. But whilst these very early fossils could walk well, our initial findings suggest that efficient running came about quite a bit later in the fossil record.

How we evolved from our common ancestor with chimpanzees six million years ago is a fundamental question. Walking upright seems to be the very first thing that distinguishes our ancestors from other apes, so finding out about this should help us map the evolutionary pathway to modern humans.

The next really interesting question is to look in more detail at running. It has been suggested that our ability to run for long distances took a lot longer to evolve than our ability to walk and that this is a defining feature of our very close relatives in our genus. Our techniques should let us get to the bottom of this question because it will let us measure the running abilities of our fossil ancestors directly.


'/>"/>

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

Related biology news :

1. “Nano-scissors?laser shows precise surgical capability
2. Enzyme shown to help protect genomic stability
3. Low level of extinction during ice age linked to adaptability
4. Two chemicals boost immune cells ability to fight HIV without gene therapy
5. Molecular messengers perform a crucial role in the ability of injured nerve cells to heal themselves
6. Study shows humans have ability to track odors, much like bloodhounds
7. Variation in HIVs ability to disable host defenses contributes to rapid evolution
8. Bigger brain size matters for intellectual ability
9. Locusts built-in surface analysis ability directs them to fly overland
10. First Whole Genome Map of Genetic Variability in Parkinson’s Disease
11. A bugs life: Exceptional genomic stability yet rapid protein evolution in a carpenter ant mutualist
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:1/22/2016)... 2016 http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/p74whf/global_biometrics ... "Global Biometrics Market in Retail Sector ... --> http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/p74whf/global_biometrics ) has announced ... Market in Retail Sector 2016-2020" report ... Research and Markets ( http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/p74whf/global_biometrics ) has ...
(Date:1/20/2016)... Minn. , Jan. 20, 2016   MedNet ... supports the entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased ... 2015. MedNet,s significant achievements are the result of the ... iMedNet eClinical , it,s comprehensive, easy-to-use ... --> --> Key MedNet growth achievements ...
(Date:1/15/2016)... Rico , Jan. 15, 2016 Recent ... and small to find new ways to ensure data ... iOS and Android that ... on biometrics, transforming it into a hardware authorization token. ... users swipe their fingerprint on their KodeKey enabled device ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... regenerative medicine, has announced a new agreement with Bankok,Thailand-based Global Stem Cells Network ... and phsyicians in 15 Latin American countries, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... Early-career researchers from Indonesia , ... and Yemen honored ... Indonesia , Nepal , Peru ... are being honored for their accomplishments in nutrition, psychiatry, biotechnology, women,s ... women scientists who are pursuing careers in agriculture, biology and medicine in ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... , Feb.10, 2016 ASAE is introducing ... Association Management Companies (AMC) the option of joining or ... annual fee determined by staff size, every employee in ... join ASAE and reap all available member benefits.   ... "Our new organizational membership options will allow organizations of ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... , Feb. 10, 2016  Allergan plc (NYSE: ... that Brent Saunders , Allergan,s CEO and President, ... fireside chat session at the RBC Capital Markets Healthcare ... ET at The New York Palace Hotel in ... be webcast live and can be accessed on Allergan,s ...
Breaking Biology Technology: