Did early hominins shuffle before they walked upright?

I don’t know how I missed this paper, “Stand and shuffle: When does it make energetic sense?” It was published last month in the Journal of Physical Anthropology. I’m sharing it with you now because the bipedalism is heavily studied in anthropology. Bipedal locomotion is perhaps one of only traits that is predominately ‘human.’

The two authors, Patricia Kramer and Adam Sylvester, are well versed in the origin of hominid bipedalism and locomotor energetics. In this new paper they test the hypothesis that shuffling emerged as a precursor to walking as a way of saving metabolic energy.

They developed a mathematical model that calculated the energetics and metabolic efficiencies of locomition based upon body plan. For a chimp to bipedally move about distances greater than about 50 feet, it was found that it would not be metabolically efficient. But it shuffling distances less than 30 feet was for the chimp. They used the chimp model because they say that a chimp’s body plan is very much like that of our last common shared ancestor.

This conclusion is in line with three posts I shared last year on the energetics of bipedalism, especially the latter two where I tackled a common question asked by people, “If upright walking is so energetically favorable, why do apes still “knuckle-walk”?” and “Chimpanzees Gait Energetics & The Origin of Human Bipedalism.”

    Sylvester, A.D., Kramer, P.A. (2008). Stand and shuffle: When does it make energetic sense?. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 135(4), 484-488. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.20752

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