During the course of human evolution, we have transitioned from the arboreal environment of our ancestors to become committed, terrestrial bipeds. These changes are reflected in many aspects of our postcranial skeleton, including our highly specialised foot. Due to the mosaic morphology of fossil hominins, it is remains unknown in what ways their locomotion differed from our own, both in a continued dependence on arboreal environments and in the way they walked bipedally. As internal bone structure, both cortical and trabecular bone, remodel during an individual’s lifetime in response to their behaviour it has the potential to reveal how they actually behaved. FOOTSTEP will answer these questions by using state-of-the-art, whole-bone methods to analyse the internal bone structure of the foot (all tarsals and metatarsals) of extant non-human great apes and humans from a range of populations. These methods will include a cutting-edge geometric morphometric approach. FOOTSTEP will analyse internal bone structure of all tarsals and metatarsals of Australopithecus africanus, Paranthropus robustus, Australopithecus sediba, Homo naledi, Homo floresiensis and the OH8 foot (Homo habilis/Paranthropus). The project will change our understanding of locomotor evolution in the human lineage, and through including a range of taxa, will resolve questions about locomotor variability among hominins. Results of the project will be disseminated to a broad range of target audiences, via high-impact, open access journal publications, at scientific conferences across three continents and to non-specialists through public outreach activities. The training that I will receive during the fellowship, along with the opportunities available at the University of Kent to further develop my transferable skills, will provide me with the knowledge and experience required to enhance my future career prospects.
Fields of science
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