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bipedalism

Human Characteristics: Walking Upright
Image: iStockphoto.com/danr13

Human Characteristics: Walking Upright

We take bipedalism — walking upright on two feet — for granted. It’s one of the things that makes us human. It gives us advantages, but can also lead to flat feet, back pain, and varicose veins.

Discover how scientists are still trying to piece together the why and how of this big shift in locomotion that differentiated us from our apelike ancestors.

Smithsonian
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A Challenge for Humanoid Robots

A Challenge for Humanoid Robots

Walking upright might be easy for us, but it's a nightmare for a robot! How do you make a robot walk on two legs without falling over? Find out! More...

Profile
NOVA/PBS
Compare the Skeletons

Compare the Skeletons

The transition from walking on all fours to walking upright didn't occur overnight. Compare the skeletons of chimps, early human predecessors, and modern humans to see the changes that took place. More...

Interactive
NOVA/PBS
Our Improbable Ability to Walk

Our Improbable Ability to Walk

Our upright structure gets a lot of help from our muscles, nerves, and brain to help us walk successfully. Explore this coordinated effort. More...

Article
NOVA/PBS
Why Can’t We Walk Straight?

Why Can’t We Walk Straight?

Think you can walk in a straight line? It's more difficult than you might think — and scientists haven't quite figured out why. More...

Video
NPR
“Hobbit” Study Takes a Step Forward

“Hobbit” Study Takes a Step Forward

What do the feet of the tiny fossil hominid known as the “hobbit” tell us about its locomotion — and lineage? Find out here. More...

Video
AMNH
Bird “Crouch” Developed in Dinosaur Ancestors

Bird “Crouch” Developed in Dinosaur Ancestors

Birds stand on two feet, but unlike humans they have very bent legs. How did they develop this posture, which takes more muscular effort? Find out. More...

Video
Nature/Scientific American
Evolution Laetoli Footprints

Evolution Laetoli Footprints

Cast in volcanic ash nearly 4 million years ago, footprints show evidence of animals walking, including three individuals who walked upright. Find out the significance of this path of prints. More...

Video
PBS
How Bipedalism Arose

How Bipedalism Arose

Paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson, who discovered the hominid fossil “Lucy” in 1974, explains different theories of bipedalism. More...

Article
NOVA/PBS
How Early Did People Walk Upright?

How Early Did People Walk Upright?

A 6-million-year-old thighbone from Kenya offers clues to early bipedalism. See how scientists were able to piece the puzzle together. More...

Interactive
AMNH
Human Adaptation Laboratory

Human Adaptation Laboratory

Humans are adapted to walking upright. It works well when you do it the right way. When you don’t — or can’t — your body might complain. Explore the mechanics of walking. More...

Video
Boston University
Mother of Man: 3.2 Million Years Ago

Mother of Man: 3.2 Million Years Ago

The discovery in Ethiopia of the fossil named Lucy rocked the paleoanthropological world. Lucy showed evidence of bipedalism, which made her a hominid. Discover her Beatles connection! More...

Article
BBC
Origins of Bipedalism

Origins of Bipedalism

Why do we walk upright on two feet? Anthropologists have a lot of different answers to that question. Sample them and then vote for your choice! More...

Interactive
NOVA/PBS
Theories of Bipedalism

Theories of Bipedalism

Here you can “walk” through the different theories of bipedalism and discover the differences in structure of human ancestors and early humans that made it possible. More...

Article
Encyclopedia Britannica
Walking on Two Legs: Bipedalism

Walking on Two Legs: Bipedalism

From head to toe, bipedalism required many coordinated changes in order to make upright walking on two legs possible. Words and pictures explain the facts. More...

Article
Australian Museum
Walking Tall

Walking Tall

Human skeletons are adapted to walking and running upright. Discover the skeletal changes that enable this kind of locomotion. More...

Article
WGBH/PBS
Walking, But Not Running, with the Real “Hobbits”

Walking, But Not Running, with the Real “Hobbits”

The discovery of a small, bipedal human ancestor on an Indonesian island in 2003 challenged assumptions about walking upright. Investigate the “hobbit’s” (Homo floresiensis) foot and leg structure. More...

Article
Smithsonian
What Makes Us Human?

What Makes Us Human?

The Leakey family has studied hominid fossils in Africa since 1931. Richard Leakey currently supervises research there. Explore human origins, including bipedalism, in this video. More...

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National Geographic

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