The developmental origins and functional role of postcranial adaptive morphology in human bipedal anatomy
AuthorFoster, Adam D.
AdvisorRaichlen, David A.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractWhen considering the array of terrestrial locomotor behaviors, bipedalism is a particularly rare way of moving about the landscape. In fact, humans are the only obligate terrestrial mammalian bipeds. Therefore, understanding both how and why it evolved is particularly intriguing. However, there is debate over why the evolution of bipedalism occurred and there is a large gap in knowledge for the mechanisms that underpin the evolution of these adaptive morphologies. One complicating factor for sorting out which models best explain how our hominin ancestors became bipedal is that they all rely on the same set of traits. Moreover, many of the traits that are thought to be diagnostic of bipedalism are only linked by association and have not been experimentally tested. That is, they do not appear in non-human primates and other quadrupeds. Therefore, addressing why the evolution of bipedalism occurred requires understanding the adaptive significance of traits linked with bipedalism. In this dissertation, I use an experimental approach employing both human and animal models to explore links between morphology and behavior and to tease apart the adaptive significance of particular traits. For the human portion of the dissertation, I use an inverse dynamics approach (estimating muscle forces from kinematic, kinetic, and anatomical data) to determine how modern human anatomy functions while walking using ape-like postures to clarify the links between morphology and energy costs in different mechanical regimes to determine the adaptive significance of postcranial anatomy. The results from this portion of the dissertation suggest that adopting different joint postures results in higher energy costs in humans due to an increase in active muscle volumes at the knee. These results lead to two conclusions important for understanding the evolution of human bipedalism. One is that human anatomy maintains low energy costs of walking in humans compared to chimpanzees regardless of lower limb postures. Second, the results suggest that erect trunk posture may be an important factor in reducing energy costs, therefore indicating that lumbar lordosis (the curvature of the lower spine) is important for reducing costs. For the animal portion of the dissertation, I use rats as a model for the quadrupedal-to-bipedal transition and experimentally induce bipedal posture and locomotion under a variety of loading conditions to determine if traits consistent with the evolution of bipedalism occur and under what conditions. This experimental design also has the ability to determine if there is a role for developmental plasticity in generating bipedal morphology to help answer the question how the evolution of bipedalism occurred. I find that inducing bipedal behaviors in a quadrupedal animal generates morphology consistent with human bipedal traits and that loading conditions have specific effects in different skeletal elements and at particular joints. I also find that there is a plausible role for developmental plasticity in generating adaptive bipedal morphology in the earliest hominins. Overall, the results from the experimental procedures in this dissertation were able to clarify links between behavior and bipedal morphology, demonstrate a plausible role for developmental plasticity in early adaptation to bipedal behavior in australopiths, determine the adaptive significance of human postcranial anatomy, and the ways in which postcranial anatomy reduces costs.
Degree ProgramGraduate College