Re: bipedalism and AAH

Phil Nicholls (
28 Apr 1995 00:31:34 GMT

>> I believe that protohominids were very generalized apes and
>> like most primates walked bipedally when the mood suited
>> them.
> You often use this argument; that primates walk bipedally
> and human bipedalism is just a more extreme example of
> such demonstrated bipedality. The glosses over the major
> skeletal and anatomical changes that differentiate fully
> bipedal human bipedality from the part-time bipedality of
> other primates.

I don't gloss over anything. Behavior before morphology. I
am arguing that humans have specialized in a common primate
locomotor behavior. You are arguing that bipedalism required
the support of water to evolve, despite the fact that no
aquatic mammal has ever become bipedal and that in fact most
of them show reduction in the size and robusticity of the hind

> However, I did pick up from one of your earlier posts
> a description of bipedal behavious by our closest
> living relatives. I'll reproduce it for the benefit of those
> who may have missed it before...
> >This morning I was
> >re-reading Frans de Waal's Peacemaking Among Primates,
> >specifically the section on bonobos (Pan paniscus, also called
> >pygmy chimpanzees). He (de Waal) offered some interesting
> >observations that, if true, would support one of the planks in
> >Hardy/Morgan's AAH. Bonobos differ from common chimpazees in
> >a number of interesting ways. They have longer legs and when
> >they stand upright they do so in a way that is more like us
> >than common chimpanzees. In captivity, bonobos exhibited
> >bipedal posture more often than common chimpanzees. As de
> >Waal describes it, a bonobo standing upright looks an artists
> >conception of primitive hominids with one notable exception --
> >the big toe is large and divergent.
> >What caught my attention was the following:
> >
> >"Both Kano and the Badrians [two primatologists who study
> >bonobos in the wild --pn] have heard from local people that bonobos
> >catch and eat fish. For many years field-workers found only
> >ape footsteps and holes in the mud of small streams, but no
> >direct evidence fish catching. On a recent field trip,
> >however, the Badrians saw two female bonobos walking upright,
> >in the water. They snatched handfuls of floadting dead
> >leaves, picking out things to eat. After the apes noticed
> >them and fled, the investigators themselves tried the
> >technique. They disturbed many smarimates in the
> mood for a spot of bipedalism, you give us one that fits
> the AAT. Interesting.

Of course it needs to be pointed out that bonobos have not
lost body hair, have not gained subcutaneous fat, elongated
their nose or any of the other aquatic ape traits the AAH is
supposed to explain. Like Nasalis in Morgan's post they are
simply engaging in a typical primate behavior.

The interesting thing about the AAH is that as time goes on
less and less water seems to be involved. Perhaps we can
attribute some of the aquatic ape traits to the advent of
Christianity and the practice of baptism.

Phil Nicholls "To ask a question you must first
Department of Anthropology know most of the answer."
SUNY Albany -Robert Sheckley SEMPER ALLOUATTA