Evolution: Why did we start walking upright?

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Great Apes < Evolution < Science

Why bipedalism?

First, this came about from the following Facebook comment:

My only doubt is the transformation from monkeys. Why would we want to stand erect when we had the ability to climb to reach food in trees?

Answer: Understanding evolution is key, and it’s not a matter of “want.” It’s a series of fortunate accidents—small genetic changes that offer advantages to offspring. Around three to five million years ago, our ancestors, most likely by the genus Australopithecus, began walking upright. Walking upright provided several benefits, such as freeing the hands for carrying tools and food. Bipedalism is also more energy-efficient for long-distance travel, which was crucial as our ancestors moved from trees to open environments. Moreover, standing upright allowed them to see over tall grasses to spot predators and navigate effectively. These combined factors made bipedalism a successful adaptation for our ancestors, aiding in their survival and evolution.

Understanding the evolutionary shift to bipedalism provides you with wisdom about your past, illuminating the context of your journey and the nature of human adaptation.

How did it start? Several theories explain why great apes began walking upright. One theory suggests that bipedalism evolved because it is more energy-efficient than “knuckle-walking.” Another idea is that walking on two legs freed up hands for tasks like gathering food. Some scientists believe it was part of a mutually beneficial arrangement where males gathered food for females and their young in return for exclusive mating. Finally, climate change likely played a role; as forests shrank, hominid ancestors had to walk across grasslands to reach food sources. Those that could walk or run faster were more likely to survive predator attacks.

For more on those early years, take the deep dive, sit back, relax, and explore the human evolution timeline: The Human Evolution Timeline.

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