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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Taft Lecture, Anthropology: Dr. Brigitte Demes

Dr. Brigitte Demes
Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University
Gives the talk: Facultative bipedalism in primates: Understanding the evolution of human gait

Abstract: Bipedal posture and locomotion are the earliest features that distinguish fossil hominids from their quadrupedal primate ancestors. South American capuchin monkeys, versed in both of these gait modalities, offer the opportunity to study what gait a quadrupedal primate adopts when it gets up on its hind legs. I have studied the mechanics of capuchin bipedalism in our primate gait laboratory and found that they use a bent-hip, bent-kneed running gait. The facultative bipedalism of other non-human primates, including our closest relative the chimpanzee, is also unlike the habitual bipedalism of humans. Based on these findings and anatomical constraints I conclude that the origin of human habitual bipedalism likely started as a bent-hip, bent-kneed gait. Speed would have been significantly impaired compared to quadrupedal limits, and the evolution of this gait was probably also not motivated by increasing locomotor efficiency.

Date of the talk: Monday, April 4, 2011

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