Why do humans and apes move the way they do? Why do humans walk on two legs, and how and why did that occur?
These are questions Nathan Thompson, Ph.D., assistant professor of anatomy, aims to answer in his ongoing research of human evolution and anatomy. His current research takes him out of the lab to Rwanda and Uganda to study locomotion in gorillas.
By studying how modern humans move, researchers can compare their bones and muscles to ancient fossils. They examine the similarities and see how ancient humans may have lived, as well as how they may have changed from then to now. “The tricky thing is, when we go further back in time, you start seeing aspects of humans that start to look more and more like modern apes,” Thompson explains. “Apes are our closest living relatives. Chimpanzees and gorillas. And so it becomes natural to ask, How are these apelike features of their skeleton actually affecting how they walked or how they moved or how they climbed? It gets harder and harder to answer those types of questions, because we don’t know as much about how modern apes actually move.”
Watch the video below for more on their discussion.