ue to the different civilizations upon the evolution of the Homo sapiens sapiens (present/modern human) it was difficult to determine which part of our body was the last to evolve. Our bodies have changed based on the environmental location, as I have previously stated in many of my articles, but at the same time, it is believed that the evolution of humans was already “programmed” within our DNA which is what guides our organism to grow and develop from a fetus.
In a research led by Dr. Peter Fernadez from Marquette University, in Milwaukee, it was discovered that our big toes were the last part of the human body to evolve. The study presented 3D scans of the toe bone joints of fossil human relatives as well as living primates that have quite a similar anatomy to some of our prehistoric ancestors.
How important is our big toe?
The results from these 3D scans when scanned with modern humans were that the big toe, or hallux, in anatomical language, was the last to evolve and it is actually argued that this is the biological evolution that allowed humans to rise from walking on four limbs towards walking on two feet.
Dr. Fernandez is the one who came up with the hypothesis that our toes have played a crucial role in human evolution, especially in the later species such as the Homo Erectus.
“Our ability to efficiently walk and run on two feet, or be ‘bipedal’, is a crucial feature that enabled humans to become what they are today. For everything to work together, the foot bones first had to evolve to accommodate the unique biomechanical demands of bipedalism.” (Quote by Dr. Peter Fernandez)
When the scans were analyzed by looking at the human evolution tree it was discovered that our toes actually evolved somewhere about two million years ago within the contemporary Homo species.
Specialists in human biology say that the toe evolved so late because it was the most difficult to evolve from an anatomical perspective. At the same time, many of our ancestors spent a few million years hanging in trees which meant spending a lot of time grasping, therefore making it more difficult for their feet to develop a toe.
Becoming human was based on many small changes over a period of millions of years that gradually happened. Dr. William Harcourt-Smith from the City University of New York argues that the earliest hominin species (Ardipithecus) was the first to divert from the lifestyle of living mostly on trees and settling on the ground. This allowed for the slow process of biological evolution to take place, being the first species to start the evolution process of the toe.
“They are suggesting that one of the earliest hominins, Ardipithecus, was already adapting in a direction away from the predicted morphology of the last common ancestor of chimps and modern humans, but not ‘towards’ modern humans. To me, this implies that there were several lineages within hominins that were likely experimenting with bipedalism in different ways to each other.” (Quote by Dr William Harcourt-Smith)
Due to technological constraints, the evolutionary process of the toe cannot be shown with exact accuracy. This is important as it would show the implications that this biological change had on our ancestor’s lifestyles and most importantly, how the change in lifestyle shifted the relationship between different species over time.
When it comes to the evolution from primate to human we have the bigger picture already drawn, but it is the small detail that is most captivating and in this case most imperative.
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