Energetic and endurance constraints on great ape quadrupedalism and the benefits of hominin bipedalism

David A. Raichlen, Herman Pontzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Bipedal walking was one of the first key behavioral traits that defined the evolution of early hominins. While it is not possible to identify specific selection pressures underlying bipedal evolution, we can better understand how the adoption of bipedalism may have benefited our hominin ancestors. Here, we focus on how bipedalism relaxes constraints on nonhuman primate quadrupedal limb mechanics, providing key advantages during hominin evolution. Nonhuman primate quadrupedal kinematics, especially in our closest living relatives, the great apes, are dominated by highly flexed limb joints, often associated with high energy costs, and are constrained by the need to reduce loads on mobile, but less stable forelimb joints. Bipedal walking would have allowed greater hind limb joint extension, which is associated with reduced energy costs and increased endurance. We suggest that relaxing these constraints provided bipedal hominins important benefits associated with long distance foraging and mobility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-261
Number of pages9
JournalEvolutionary Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • bent-hip bent-knee
  • chimpanzee
  • evolution
  • fatigue
  • locomotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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