Ape Racing, Footprint Tracing, & Sorting Plastic Body Parts

Elise's foot
Elise’s foot looks just like the one at Laetoli…

What preadaptations enable us to run bipedally? Try running any other way & it becomes patently obvious. Presenters in the graduate Principles of Physical Anthropology course challenged us to engage in a relay race as chimp-like knuckle-walkers, then our own obligate biped selves (thank gawd!). The objective? Our termite fishing stick & a juicy “termite” (or beetle stand-in).

"digging stick" & dinner
“digging stick” & dinner

There were two teams of five players each.

Kelsey knucklewalking
Kelsey knucklewalking

We took turns knuckle-walking as best we could…

Matt knucklewalking
Note Matt’s excellent knuckling technique, though he does avoid putting much weight on them. I did this activity a few weeks later with elementary school kids & learned there is definitely a developmental curve even to fake knucklewalking.
Elise using her 3rd hand
Elise using her 3rd hand

…to retrieve our digging sticks.

efficient bipeds
Ashley & Achsah are efficient bipeds too!

Then we knucklewalked to the termite mound & scored some dinner & raced back.

And we finished class with an exercise in classificatory fossil sorting…with broken boy soldiers…

For real though, based on the scant remnants recovered, in some cases only the barrel of what appears to be a gun, we classified Australopithecus riflecus…you get the point. This would really give Paul Bingham & Joanne Souza some ammunition for their “death from a distance” unifying theory of human cooperation! Hey, I’m here all week!

sorting "fossil" army men
Achsah & Emma sorting broken boy soldiers

And finally we talked about how to recognize us as bipeds even when we’re not around & don’t leave our shell casings behind.

Matt's foot
If the Laetoli footprint looked like a fish, where would we be?

 In Tanzania, Mary Leakey found evidence of us that looked like this. Wow, our footprints really are similar. Look at some of those toe gaps (toe diastemas?)!

Kara's foot
Kara’s foot

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