Friday, October 19, 2012

Prehistoric Autopsy: Alice Roberts

Professor Alice Roberts, one of the presenters of Prehistoric Autopsy (credit: BBC) 

Professor Alice Roberts is back on our screens next week with Prehistoric Autopsy, which sees a team of experts reconstructing some of our ancient ancestors. We caught up with Alice to ask her about the three early human relatives that will feature in the programme.

Lucy's species (Australopithecus Afarensis)

"Our closest living relatives – chimpanzees – stand on two legs. The distinction is, are you a habitual biped? To get from A to B, is that your locomotion of choice? If it is, that causes changes in your anatomy. Lucy’s skeleton had these changes, and it’s very similar to our skeletons." 

"Another piece of evidence is the ‘Laetoli footprints’ from Tanzania. One expert on Prehistoric Autopsy is Robin Crompton, who’s studied Lucy’s gait, primarily by analysing the Laetoli footprints and how they represent stepping onto the ground – compared with humans and chimpanzees. The way we form footprints reflects the pressures applied at different points, because the whole of your foot doesn’t hit the floor at the same time: pressure comes through the heel, then down onto the ball and onto the toes. And when Robin looks at Lucy’s footprint, it appears quite similar to the way we walk."

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