Oldest footprint fossil could offer insights into ancient human gait

July 23rd, 2010 - 3:14 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, July 23 (ANI): After discovering fossil remains of what is believed to be the oldest footprints that look like those made by modern humans, scientists are trying to understand how walking evolved in humans.

Created around 1.5 million years ago, these are the oldest footprints that look like those made by modern humans.

A team of scientists, including Brian Richmond from George Washington University, discovered these precious fossilized prints in dried mud in 2009.

Now Richmond is working on comparing the gait and foot structure of modern humans to the collection of ancient footprints.

In an interview about his work, Richmond said that these footprints provide rare insight into understanding the evolution of human locomotion.

“A fossilized footprint is basically fossilized behaviour. It shows you what the individual did 1.5 million years ago that instant in time,” Discovery News quoted Richmond as saying.

“Sure enough, they were walking with a long stride, they had an arch in the foot the way we have,” he said.

These adaptations — long legs and arches in our feet — represent major differences between us and our distant primate relatives including gorillas, chimps and bonobos.

The development of specialized foot tendons, called spring tendons, paved the way for our wonderful arches.

Spring tendons enhance the foot’s efficiency- some of the energy spent to drop one’s weight down when taking a step is actually stored and then returned to the leg as it rebounds.

By the looks of it, the fossilized foot impressions seem identical to the ones we make when walking across the sand.

But Richmond and his science team want to find out how similar they really are. (ANI)

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