We thought we’d take a different stance for today’s blog — and step back in time to the remote past. If you’re curious about how walking evolved in mankind, you’re going to love this content.
Walking on two legs provided early humans with a significant advantage, allowing them to explore new habitats, access new food resources, and adapt to changing environments.
Experts believe that bipedalism played a crucial role in shaping the course of human evolution — and it remains a defining characteristic of our species today.
As a matter of fact, the evolution of walking in mankind is a fascinating aspect of human history — mainly because the roots of our evolutionary past are still open for debate. Some scientists, however, believe we are getting closer to the truth of unearthing the origins of our early ancestors.
To date, researchers have not been able to pinpoint an epoch in which bipedalism is thought to have emerged in our early hominin ancestors. The leading theory suggests around 6 to 7 million years ago.
Fossil evidence suggests that some of the earliest hominins, such as Ardipithecus and Australopithecus, had started to make adaptations for walking on two legs but likely still spent most of their time in trees.
But this is where things become muddied. Ardipithecus lived between 5.8 million and 4.4 million years ago, yet other fossil records indicate that the first evolution of mankind from ape-like transition to bipedalism started with Sahelanthropus who may have walked on two legs about 7 million years ago.
The Advantages of Walking on Two Legs
The ability to walk upright on two legs, known as bipedalism, is one of the defining characteristics of the human species. While the exact reasons for the evolution of bipedalism are still debated among scientists, several theories have been proposed to explain this significant development.
Walking on two legs requires less energy compared to quadrupedal (four-legged) locomotion. By freeing up the hands from the task of locomotion, early humans could use their arms and hands for other important tasks, such as carrying tools, food, or infants.
Standing and walking upright exposes less surface area to the sun, reducing heat absorption and allowing better cooling through increased airflow. This could have been advantageous in the hot savannah environments where early humans lived.
Bipedalism allowed our ancestors to carry food, tools, or offspring more efficiently, increasing their ability to travel longer distances while foraging or migrating.
By standing upright, early humans gained an increased field of view, enabling them to scan the landscape for predators or potential sources of food. Some researchers suspect walking may have evolved in response to changes in diet, as our early ancestors adapted to new food sources and terrain.
The ability to walk on two legs may have influenced social interactions and communication among early humans. It might have led to increased face-to-face interactions and developed more complex social structures.
Although the exact era when mankind started walking predominantly on two legs has massive gaps, palaeontology theories show that walking certainly provided Homo erectus with multiple benefits. And walking still provides mankind with multiple benefits today.