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Current Affairs

Ape fossil gives clues of bipedalism

Date: 08 November 2019 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Fossils unearthed in southern Germany of an ape may dramatically alter the understanding of the evolutionary origins of a fundamental human trait of walking upright on two legs.

 

Background

The discovery suggests that bipedalism originated in a common ancestor of humans and the great apes , a group that includes chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans  that inhabited Europe rather than an ancestor from Africa.

 

Details

  • Scientists said that the ape, called Danuvius guggenmosi, combined attributes of humans which is straight lower limbs adapted for bipedalism  with those of apes, long arms able to stretch out to grasp tree branches.

  • This indicates that Danuvius was able to walk upright on two legs and also use all four limbs while clambering through trees.It is the oldest-known example of upright walking in apes.

  • The oldest fossil evidence of bipedalism in humankind’s evolutionary tree dated to about 6 million years ago which is fossils from Kenya of an extinct member of the human lineage called Orrorin tugenensis as well as footprints on the Mediterranean island of Crete.

  • If Danuvius turns out to be ancestral to humans, that would mean that some of its descendants at some point made their way to Africa.

  • The discovery of Danuvius may shatter the prevailing notion of how bipedalism evolved which till now believed that perhaps 6 million years ago in East Africa a chimpanzee-like ancestor started to walk on two legs after environmental changes created open landscapes and savannahs where forests once dominated.

  • Danuvius indicates that upright walking originated in the trees, not on the ground, and that humankind’s last common ancestor with apes did not go through a stage of hunched knuckle-walking, as previously thought.

  • Fossils of at least four Danuvius individuals were found in the Allg?u region of Bavaria, including many key elements but no complete skull.

  • The completely preserved limb bones, vertebra, finger and toe bones enabled the researchers to reconstruct the way the creature moved about in its environment.

Bipedalism

Bipedalism is a form of terrestrial locomotion where an organism moves by means of its two rear limbs or legs.