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Deconstructing the past: Modelling the locomotion of Miocene hominoids through computational techniques

Project description

Kinematics in primates inform computational models to better understand our evolution

Mechanical loading of the bones affects remodelling. Contracting muscles, impact as in walking, or the tug of gravitational forces – all modulate the intricate interplay between formation and resorption. A simple example is the short-term bone loss experience of astronauts in a microgravity environment that can be partially compensated with rigorous physical exercise while in space. Over the very long term, on an evolutionary scale, remodelling helped our human ancestors accommodate new postures and movements such as bipedal locomotion. Despite the necessity of understanding how form relates to function to better understand our evolutionary pathway, many questions remain. DeMol is combining studies of kinematics in primates with advanced computational and phylogenetic comparative methods to fill in the gaps.


The challenge of better knowing the complex relationship between bone's morphology and function has yielded tens of articles since the beginning of the last century and is essential for making positional behavioural inferences on fossil taxa. Despite its relevance, the form-function relationship is still poorly understood. Based on this premise, this project focuses on deciphering the functional loading environment and its influence on skeletal design in the hindlimb of living primates and shedding light on the locomotor evolution of fossil apes and early hominins. The fossil apes included in this project constitute key taxa for understanding the positional behaviour evolution within the Hominoidea (the apes and humans clade), which has important implications for a better knowledge of the evolutionary pathway that led to the specialized locomotor types of extant apes and humans (specialized antipronograde behaviours such as below-branch suspension and human terrestrial bipedalism). To accomplish the aims, this project will rely on diverse, multidisciplinary and innovative techniques, including biomechanical and engineering approaches (e.g. multibody dynamics analysis, computer optimization, machine learning and data science), phylogenetic comparative methods, and collection of experimental data (e.g. recording of live primates kinematics). This project also involves an important component of training for the applicant and several short stays to gain a diversified and unique set of skills and knowledge on the field of paleoprimatology and evolutionary biology. Hence, this project will extend our knowledge on the bone's form-function relationship, as well as the origin, tempo and mode of the hominoids positional behaviour evolution, including key long-lasting questions related to the origins of human bipedalism.


Net EU contribution
€ 212 933,76
M13 9PL Manchester
United Kingdom

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North West (England) Greater Manchester Manchester
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 212 933,76