Hominid Biped

Strange Happenings
According to Prof. Travis Pickering at the University of Wisconsin around 6 million years ago something strange happened. A Hominid quadruped, our apelike ancestor, stood up.

Why is that weird? It was the first venture towards a new creature, that later became known as homo sapien.

Why did apes stand up?

Some theories suggest it started high up in tree canopies, with Orangutans standing upright to reach for high hung fruit. Standing up allowed apes to reach fruits and manoeuvre along thin fruit bearing branches, sometimes holding on to upper branches. So for a time, the Orangutans developed this ability, when needed. This had a far-reaching impact unseen by those orange apes.

This manoeuvrability opened the door to something more revolutionary.

Second Weirdness

Some years later when the African climate began to change, hominids deserted their arboreal habitat and travailed the savannah in search of food. Increased competition for tree bearing fruits and a dwindling food supply caused by a changing climate, drove the hominids out their existing habitat. To come to terms with their new environment, the hominids stood up.


Their biped stance had three immediate advantages.

1. Standing upright, as they were taller, allowed them to see further and spot food and foes. Their higher view point gave them an advantage.

2. Standing upright reduced the surface area exposed to the sun, compared to a quadruped. When you're standing upright, only shoulders and head are exposed to the sun. This meant they sweat less than other animals standing on all fours. Think about it. The surface area exposed to the sun, when you are on all fours: back, shoulders, neck, head.

The surface area standing upright: shoulders, head. A much smaller surface area is exposed to the sun. Why is that important? Cooling. With a smaller surface area exposed to the rays of the sun, less hair which allowed better evaporation (cooling) through more efficient sweating. 

3. Walking upright freed the fore limbs (hands) to scavenge, signal, kill or use tools.

In the hot African sun, reduced surface area exposure, resulted in hair loss, which in turn allowed better sweating. With no hair, sweat evaporates more readily for better cooling. Hair traps sweat and takes longer to cool.

Another development was the consumption of meat, change in diet, which allowed early hominids to spend less time eating or searching for food. Gorillas spend around 12 hours each day eating. Chimpanzees spend a similar amount of time. Humans are spared the chore of spending hours eating plants with low nutritional value. Meat eating freed  humans from the need to spend hours searching and consuming foodstuff.

A further development around 500,000 years ago was the use of fire to cook meat. This was a game changer. Fire cooked meat was more digestible and further advanced evolution to the species by providing quality proteins and fats which promoted brain growth. Our large brains enabled improved cognitive awareness and allowed developments such as speech and writing.

Thanks to standing up, we threw off our coverings, ate better food, invented  communication, developed war and now rule the world. How cool is that.