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Orrorin tugenensis Femoral Morphology and the Evolution of Hominin Bipedalism

Science  21 Mar 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5870, pp. 1662-1665
DOI: 10.1126/science.1154197

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Abstract

Bipedalism is a key human adaptation and a defining feature of the hominin clade. Fossil femora discovered in Kenya and attributed to Orrorin tugenensis, at 6 million years ago, purportedly provide the earliest postcranial evidence of hominin bipedalism, but their functional and phylogenetic affinities are controversial. We show that the O. tugenensis femur differs from those of apes and Homo and most strongly resembles those of Australopithecus and Paranthropus, indicating that O. tugenensis was bipedal but is not more closely related to Homo than to Australopithecus. Femoral morphology indicates that O. tugenensis shared distinctive hip biomechanics with australopiths, suggesting that this complex evolved early in human evolution and persisted for almost 4 million years until modifications of the hip appeared in the late Pliocene in early Homo.

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