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Monday, September 17, 2007

Early Humans Almost Certainly Walked Upright On Two Legs,But Couldn't Run Very Fast

British scientists say early humans almost certainly walked upright on two legs, but evidence suggests they couldn't run very fast.

Bill Sellers of the University of Manchester, who led the study, said if early humans lacked an Achilles tendon, as modern chimps and gorillas do, 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 Sellers. "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."

Sellers said "efficient running" would have been necessary for human 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."

Sellers presented the research Tuesday during the British Association for the Advancement of Science "Festival of Science" at the University of York.

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