https://phys.org/news/2020-03-regular-climbing-behavior-human-ancestor.html Research identifies regular climbing behavior in a human ancestor: A new study led by the University of Kent has found evidence that human ancestors as recent as two million years ago may have regularly climbed trees. Walking on two legs has long been a defining feature to differentiate modern humans, as well as extinct species on our lineage (aka hominins), from our closest living ape relatives: chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. This new research, based on analysis of fossil leg bones, provides evidence that a hominin species (believed to be either Paranthropus robustus or early Homo) regularly adopted highly flexed hip joints; a posture that in other non-human apes is associated with climbing trees. These findings came from analysing and comparing the internal bone structures of two fossil leg bones from South Africa, discovered over 60 years ago and believed to have lived between 1 and 3 million years ago. For both fossils, the external shape of the bones were very similar showing a more human-like than ape-like hip joint, suggesting they were both walking on two legs. The researchers examined the internal bone structure because it remodels during life based on how individuals use their limbs. Unexpectedly, when the team analysed the inside of the spherical head of the femur, it showed that they were loading their hip joints in different ways. more at link...... the paper: https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/03/25/1914481117 Evidence for habitual climbing in a Pleistocene hominin in South Africa: Significance Here we present evidence of hominin locomotor behavior from the trabecular bone of the femur. We show evidence for habitual use of highly flexed hip postures, which could potentially indicate regular climbing in a South African hominin from Sterkfontein, which is either Paranthropus robustus or Homo. Second, we present evidence that Australopithecus africanus likely did not climb at the frequencies seen in extant nonhuman apes, and exhibits a modern, human-like pattern of loading at the hip joint. These results challenge the prevailing view of a single transition to bipedalism within the hominin clade by providing evidence of climbing in a more recent, non-Australopithecus South African hominin, and add to the increasing evidence for locomotor diversity in the hominin clade. Abstract Bipedalism is a defining trait of the hominin lineage, associated with a transition from a more arboreal to a more terrestrial environment. While there is debate about when modern human-like bipedalism first appeared in hominins, all known South African hominins show morphological adaptations to bipedalism, suggesting that this was their predominant mode of locomotion. Here we present evidence that hominins preserved in the Sterkfontein Caves practiced two different locomotor repertoires. The trabecular structure of a proximal femur (StW 522) attributed to Australopithecus africanus exhibits a modern human-like bipedal locomotor pattern, while that of a geologically younger specimen (StW 311) attributed to either Homo sp. or Paranthropus robustus exhibits a pattern more similar to nonhuman apes, potentially suggesting regular bouts of both climbing and terrestrial bipedalism. Our results demonstrate distinct morphological differences, linked to behavioral differences between Australopithecus and later hominins in South Africa and contribute to the increasing evidence of locomotor diversity within the hominin clade.