November 26, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

How Floppy Feet Produced Marathoners

A picture of a muscle-bound furry gibbon adorns a story on Science Daily that claims, “Floppy-footed Gibbons Help Us Understand How Early Humans May Have Walked.”  The story describes how two European researchers photographed the footwork of wild gibbons to find connections to human evolution.  It turned out that gibbon footfalls are very different from ours, but evolution came in for the explanation anyway.

The first thing that [Evie] Vereecke noticed was that the animals don’t hit the ground with their heels at the start of a stride.  They move more like ballerinas, landing on their toes before the heel touches the ground.  Analysing the gibbon foot computer model, Vereecke realised that by landing on the toes first they were stretching the toes’ tendons and storing energy in them.  According to Vereecke, this is quite different from the way that energy is stored in the human foot.  She explains that our feet are built like sprung arches spanned by an elastic tendon (aponeurosis) along the sole of the foot.  When we put weight on our feet, the arch stretches the aponeurosis, storing elastic energy to power the push off at the end of a stride.
    And there were more differences between the gibbon and human walking patterns at the end of a stride.  Instead of lifting the foot as one long lever, the gibbon lifted its heel first, effectively bending the foot in two to form an upward-turned arch, stretching the toes’ tendons even further and storing more elastic energy ready for release as the foot eventually pushes off.

So what does these differences imply for theories of human evolution?  Vereecke was “quick to point out” that there are marked differences between the feet of gibbons and the earliest humans in the fossil record.  She alleged, though, that both walk on “two flexible feet” and this was close enough to generate an evolutionary connection: “it is possible to walk quite efficiently with a relatively bendy foot and that our ancestors may have used energy storage mechanisms that are similar to ours, despite their dramatically different foot shapes.”
    Science Daily added an opening synopsis to the evolution-drenched title that earned Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:

The human foot is a miracle of evolution.  We can keep striding for miles on our well-sprung feet.  There is nothing else like them, not even amongst our closest living relatives.  According to Evie Vereecke, from the University of Liverpool, the modern human foot first appeared about 1.8 million years ago, but our ape-like ancestors probably took to walking several million years earlier, even though their feet were more ‘floppy’ and ape like than ours.

The research was published in Journal of Experimental Biology, 2008; 211 (23): 3661 DOI: 10.1242/jeb.018754.  For more on human superiority in distance running in mammals, and the physiological specializations involved, see the 11/18/2004 entry.

A miracle of evolution.  It’s a miracle an evolutionist could say something that stupid.  (On second thought,…)  Darwinists stumble all over their own feet because their foundation is floppy.

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