1 in 13 people have bendy chimp-like feet
2013 05 30

By Colin Barras | NewScientist

You may be walking on chimp-like feet without knowing it. At least 1 in 13 of us have feet that are specially adapted for climbing trees.

Textbooks will tell you that the human foot is rigid, which allows more efficient walking. Other apes, in contrast, have flexible feet better suited to grasping branches as they move through the trees. But the textbooks are wrong, say Jeremy DeSilva and Simone Gill at Boston University.

The pair asked 400 adults to walk barefoot around the Boston Museum of Science while they filmed their feet. This revealed that 8 per cent of people have some mid-foot flexibility, rather like that seen in tree-dwelling apes (American Journal of Physical Anthropology, doi.org/mmh). In another, soon-to-be-published analysis, Robin Huw Crompton at the University of Liverpool, UK, found that a flexible mid-foot may be even more common than DeSilva and Gill suggest.

So what does a flexible foot look like? It bends at the ball of the foot, and also halfway between the heel and the ball. All human feet have a joint at this point – but in most of us, stiff ligaments span the joint and keep it rigid. In some people, however, the ligaments are softer, allowing the mid-foot to bend. Close-ups of flexible feet as they unroll during walking make the bend obvious, but DeSilva says their owners were not aware of anything unusual, nor was their gait any different. "I was, and continue to be, surprised by this," he says.

Crompton thinks flexible feet may have been with us since the dawn of our species, as a relic of our tree-dwelling days. Other features were lost along the way. Chimpanzees, for instance, have opposable toes for gripping.

On the strength of his study, Crompton believes most feet can produce this flexibility in specific circumstances, adding vital stability. "For instance, our work shows that it is important during a sudden change of speed."

[...]

Read the full article at: newscientist.com



Related Articles
Human hands and feet have fishy origins


Latest News from our Front Page

Norway Joins the Race to Develop Killer Robots
2014 10 24
Norway is a large exporter of weapons, which makes the resolution of the debate about creating killer robots an important issue for everyone.  One could debate the overall merits or failings of robotic systems, but an area that clearly has become a point for concern on all sides is the emergence of "killer robots." According to robotics pioneer, David Hanson, ...
Gene That Once Aided Survival in the Arctic Found to Have Negative Impact on Health Today
2014 10 23
In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a gene variant that arose thousands of years ago and most likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today’s northern populations. {snip} “Our work ...
The Ebola hoax: questions, answers, and the false belief in the “One It”
2014 10 23
“The Reality Manufacturing Company doesn’t just sell ‘fake paintings’ that are easy to spot. No. They also sell images that are geared to mesh with people’s deeply held instincts and thereby produce rigid false beliefs. People are sure that if they gave up such beliefs, their world would fall apart and blow away in the wind.” ...
New Controversial Theory Suggests "Hobbits" Were Not Human - Who Were These Mysterious Beings?
2014 10 23
The origin of the Hobbit species remains a challenging subject to scientists. The Hobbit’s discovery confirmed the view that the Earth was once populated by many species of human, but new research the Hobbit’s were not human at all! So, who were these mysterious beings? Where did they come from? The idea that our species, Homo sapiens, was the only species of human on ...
Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)
2014 10 23
Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece “a3maq news”, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on ...
More News »