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Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University
Acquisition of terrestrial life by human ancestors influenced by forest microclimate
Bipedalism, terrestriality and open habitat were thought to be linked to each other in the course of human evolution. However, recent paleontological evidence has revealed that early hominins evolved in a wooded, humid environment. Did the evolutionary process from arboreal to terrestrial life actually require open habitat? Here I report the seasonal change in forest utilization height of West African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and central African bonobos (Pan paniscus), and show that the difference in terrestriality between these two species was mainly caused by ambient temperature differences between the two study sites. The key factor was the vertical structure of the microclimate in forests and its seasonality. The results suggest the possibility that human terrestrial life began inside a forest rather than in the savannah. Increasing seasonality and prolongation of the dry months throughout the late Miocene epoch alone could have promoted terrestrial life of our human ancestors.
Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 5741 (2017)
2017/07/19 Primate Research Institute