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Chimps Shed Light on Origins of Human Walking

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Researchers in lab
Assembled in the Anatomical Sciences laboratory are the study researchers, from left: Susan Larson, Brigitte Demes, Nathan Thompson, and Nicholas Holowka. Displayed are a model chimpanzee skeleton (right) and a model human skeleton (left).

Stony Brook-led research using chimpanzees demonstrates how upper body motion contributed to walking proficiency in our early human ancestors.

A research team led by Nathan Thompson, a PhD student in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University, has uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking.

The results, reported in Nature Communications, suggest that early human ancestors, including the famous fossil ‘Lucy’ (a species known as Australopithecus afarensis), may have been able to use their torsos to increase walking efficiency in the same way as modern humans.

“The widely accepted assumptions in the scientific community about how the chimpanzee torso works based on the skeleton alone are incorrect,” said Thompson, who is lead author.

Co-authors of the paper include Susan Larson, Brigitte Demes, and Nicholas Holowka of Stony Brook University, and Matthew C. O’Neill of the University of Arizona.

Learn more at Stony Brook’s Newsroom.

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