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Institut für Evolutionäre Anthropologie (IEA) Computer-Assisted Paleoanthropology

Bipedal locomotion

Bipedal locomotion and long bone morphology

This research project focuses on the quantitative comparative analysis of long bone morphology in bipedally walking primates and birds. Habitual bipedal locomotion is generally seen as a specifically human feature, but it is likely to have evolved various times during primate phylogeny. While human bipedal locomotion is comparatively well understood biomechanically, neurologically and physiologically, relatively little is known about the relationships between diverse locomotor habits and patterns of structural variation in long bones, be it in homino1ids, primates in general or, on a larger scope, in other habitual bipeds such as cursorial birds.

The principal goal of this project is to bridge the gap between theoretical models and empirical knowledge about bipedal locomotion. This is achieved in two stages: initially, a computer-tomographic data base of long bone morphology is established, comprising a wide range of bipedal vertebrate taxa and comparative groups exhibiting quadrupedality and brachiation. The subsequent morphometric analysis of these data concentrates on identification of morphological patterns that are characteristic for specific locomotor habits. This approach will yield new quantitative insights into how bipedal locomotion ultimately impinges on the shape of long bones. This information is needed to better understand distinct evolutionary pathways towards bipedality.

The project provides an important basis upon which a number of long-term research goals in anthropology can be envisaged: First, to understand the evolution of human bipedal locomotion, a wide scope of data on evolutionary alternatives, such as locomotor variants in hominoid taxa and variants of bipedalism in flightless birds, is needed. Second, to infer specific locomotor habits from long bones of fossil hominids, detailed knowledge about morphological variation in extant taxa and its correlation with locomotor patterns is required. Paragraph

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