There are many theories about how humans got up off our feet and onto two legs. Some say it happened because we needed to run faster; others claim that we evolved into bipedalism because it allowed us to hunt better. But there’s another theory out there that suggests something else entirely — that we learned to walk while still being fish.
The idea goes like this: When early human ancestors lived in water, they had fins rather than limbs. These fins helped propel them forward and gave them some control over where they went. Over millions of years, those fins turned into flippers, and eventually, legs. This theory is called the Fish Theory of Human Evolution.
But it turns out that the Fish Theory isn’t quite correct. In fact, there’s no evidence that early humans ever walked around on land. And even if they did, they probably didn’t do it in the way you might think.
This video explores the origins of bipedalism, including why scientists believe that we never actually stood upright as modern humans.
Walking is an activity we take for granted. After all, we do it every day. But who invented walking?
We take something for which we’re not used to doing every day for which we’ve become so accustomed to doing. Without it, our lives would probably be quite different. Walking is an exercise that involves using both your arms and your legs. Humans are unique among animals because they have language. While other animals may use some form of communication, none of them uses language the way humans do.
Was it even invented?
Walking is a unique characteristic of humans. We use our limbs to move around, and there are few activities that require us to walk. Yet, despite being such a basic necessity, the invention of walking seems to be shrouded in mystery. While scientists have been able to determine how the foot evolved into what it is now, no one knows exactly where the idea came from. However, some believe that the answer lies somewhere in Africa.
The earliest evidence of bipedalism dates back millions of years ago, and fossils have shown that early hominids used their feet to help support themselves in trees. This led researchers to conclude that walking began during the evolution of Homo erectus. They found that early humans walked upright on their hind legs, similar to chimpanzees.
However, there is still much debate over whether or not bipedalism actually originated in Africa. Some argue that it developed independently in multiple parts of the world. Others claim that it was invented in Africa and spread across the globe. Still others say that bipedalism arose once and spread throughout the world.
The First Vertebrates to Walk on Land Evolved From Fish
Invertebrates walked (crawled) on land for millions upon millions of years before vertebrate animals arose out of the water. A number of theories exist about how this transition took place, but most agree that it happened somewhere around 530 million years ago. Some experts believe that the earliest land vertebrates originated from a class of fish known as sarcopterygians. These creatures had fins and gills, but no backbone. They swam in schools and lived near the bottom of the ocean.
When the first land vertebrates evolved, they probably looked something like what we see above. This creature was named Ichthysaurus because of its resemblance to a modern day coelacanth. Coelacanths are a type of fish that live off the coast of Africa and South America. The fossil record suggests that they lived during the Devonian period, between 395 and 359 million years ago.
If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll notice that there are many similarities between Ichthysaurus and another ancient fish called Sarcoptergyi. Both species had long bodies, small heads, and large eyes. However, while Ichthysaurus had a bony skeleton, Sarcoptergyis did not. Instead, it had cartilage in its body. Cartilage is a flexible material that does not harden into bone.
While it is difficult to say exactly how Ichthysaurus moved on land, some experts think that it used its tail fin to push itself forward. Others believe that it could have simply dragged its body along the ground. Either way, it is clear that the evolution of land vertebrates required more than just changing from water to air. They needed to adapt to life on dry land.
Reptiles Were the First to Walk on Two Legs?
The idea that humans evolved from lizards is nothing new. For centuries, we’ve been told that we’re descended from theropod dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus Rex. But while those creatures walked upright, the oldest evidence of true bipedality dates back about four million years ago. In fact, one of the most famous fossils ever discovered is a partial skeleton of a small, furry creature with tiny arms, hands, and feet. This fossil, named Eudibamus because of its resemblance to a modern day shrew, lived during the late Triassic period. Scientists believe that this creature was walking on two legs.
While the dinosaur theory still holds sway among many experts, others argue that the fossil record doesn’t support such a relationship. One prominent example is paleontologist Jack Horner, whose research led him to conclude that early mammals were capable of moving around on two legs. He believes that the earliest examples of bipedalism occurred in reptiles, specifically crocodilians.
Horner points out that the earliest known bipedal animals had very different skeletal structures than the dinosaurs. They had shorter limbs, smaller heads, and longer tails. These changes likely indicate that the animals were able to move around on two legs without being burdened by large bodies and heavy skulls. Instead, they used their tails for balance and propulsion.
“But Primates Are The Ones Known For Walking”
Many people think that apes are the only animals that walk on two feet. But that’s not true. There are actually several species of primate that do it too. A few examples include baboons, macaques, gibbons, colobuses, vervets, and capuchin monkeys. These animals don’t use their arms while walking; they just put one foot down in front of the other.
This doesn’t mean that all primates are bipedals though. Gorillas, chimps, and bonobos are known to be able to run on two legs, but they usually prefer to use their hands to climb trees and swing across branches. Humans, however, are the only primates that walk on two legs. We’re the only ones who use both hands and feet to travel over land.
So what about those other primates? Well, some of them aren’t really bipeds either. Some lemurs, tarsiers, and lorises are quadrupedal. They use four limbs to move around. Others, like galagos, marmosets, and squirrel monkeys, are semi-quadrupedal. They use three limbs to move around. And there are others, like rhesus macaques, siamangs, and baboons, that are truly bipedal. All of them, including us, use two arms and two legs to move around.
So Who Invented Walking?
If you’ve seen the Pixar movie, “Luca,” you might remember this question being asked. You may be interested in finding out if there is an answer to this question. If you want to know who first walked: it was not someone who did so. Animals did not evolve the ability to stand up until they emerged from the sea long before humans existed.