Aaron Filler’s Video Documents Bipedalism in Siamangs

Aaron Filler published a very hard to accept paper about three months ago stating bipedalism could have originated 20 million or so years ago and all of the other great apes lost this adaptation whereas the human lineage kept it. Last night, he sent me three emails to share a new video where he describes,

“the details of knuckle walking in chimpanzees and gorillas, the graceful “quadrumanual” climbing of orangutans and the dramatic bipedalism of the siamang apes. These are contrasted with footage of human arm swinging and movement technology. The video also captures the various ways in which hominiform mothers carry their infants and children. “The definition of humanity can be found either in the upright bipedal hominiforms of the early Miocene, or in the dynamically inventive modern species we are now. The conflict between the biological and intellectual definition of humanity is a critical modern challenge for biology and philosophy” Filler says.””

He’s provided some low resolution clips here and there on the internet, but has also put out a high resolution file for us to view. To make it easier on y’all, I rather not have each and everyone of you guys download a 260mb file to find out you may not have the right hardware or software to view it, so I’ve embedded the Google Video Filler provides here:

Again, Filler hopes that this video new video documents evidence of an upright bipedal ancestor for both the apes and humans existed way before what is commonly accepted. I remember learning in Adrienne Zihlman’s anthropology of movement class about different ape locomotion strategies, and of course we touched on how chimpanzee, orangutan, gorilla, and other apes like siamangs and gibbons move about. Almost all apes have bursts of bipedalism, however none have persistent bipedal locomotion like us. And from what I can tell, Filler says this clip of a 8 month old captive siamang learning to be bipedal fits his hypothesis… except the baby siamang is clearly learning, and even the older siamangs in the video walk bipedally in short bursts.

Despite this shortcoming, he cites this as definitive, ground breaking, evidence that the most primitive great apes were bipedal. But he completely skirts a discussion about siamangs and other gibbons being arboreal in the wild. In the dense jungles of Malaysia, Thailand, and Sumatra, these primates rarely have a need to come down onto the ground… and their bodies are a testament to this environment, with long arms to brachiate branches with. And this was all filmed in a much less dense zoo…

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