Comparison of inverse-dynamics musculo-skeletal models of AL 288-1 Australopithecus afarensis and KNM-WT 15000 Homo ergaster to modern humans, with implications for the evolution of bipedalism

Weijie Wang, Robin H. Crompton, Tanya S. Carey, Michael M. Gunther, Yu Li, Russell Savage, Williams I. Sellers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    55 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Size and proportions of the postcranial skeleton differ markedly between Australopithecus afarensis and Homo ergaster, and between the latter and modern Homo sapiens. This study uses computer simulations of gait in models derived from the best-known skeletons of these species (AL 288-1, Australopithecus afarensis, 3.18 million year ago) and KNM-WT 15000 (Homo ergaster, 1.5-1.8 million year ago) compared to models of adult human males and females, to estimate the required muscle power during bipedal walking, and to compare this with those in modern humans. Skeletal measurements were carried out on a cast of KNM-WT 15000, but for AL 288-1 were taken from the literature. Muscle attachments were applied to the models based on their position relative to the bone in modern humans. Joint motions and moments from experiments on human walking were input into the models to calculate muscle stress and power. The models were tested in erect walking and ‘bent-hip bent-knee’ gait. Calculated muscle forces were verified against EMG activity phases from experimental data, with reference to reasonable activation/force delays. Calculated muscle powers are reasonably comparable to experimentally derived metabolic values from the literature, given likely values for muscle efficiency. The results show that: 1) if evaluated by the power expenditure per unit of mass (W/kg) in walking, AL 288-1 and KNM-WT 15000 would need similar power to modern humans; however, 2) with distance-specific parameters as the criteria, AL 288-1 would require to expend relatively more muscle power (W/kg.m-1) in comparison to modern humans. The results imply that in the evolution of bipedalism, body proportions, for example those of KNM-WT 15000, may have evolved to obtain an effective application of muscle power to bipedal walking over a long distance, or at high speed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)453-478
    Number of pages26
    JournalJournal of Human Evolution
    Volume47
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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