Bipedalism – Were we first?


Walking on two leg has always defined hominins  as an evolutionary group, and separated us from our ape ancestors. Recently however, that idea has been challenged by the discovery of the remains of an ancient ape named by scientists Danuviusguggenmosi. Judging from its skeletal remainsfrom several individuals found,  he was able to walk on two legs long before hominins evolved on earth.

Danuviusguggenmosi was discovered this year in the Bavarian region of Germany in a clay pit. He lived 11.6 million years ago and the fossils show that although it possessed long arms adapted to hanging from trees and climbing, it’s spine suggests something else. The fossil remains of the vertebrae suggests it was capable of bipedal walking.

Up to now, researchers had the knowledge that a 4.4million year old hominin , Ardipithecus ramidus, was bipedal. There also exists evidence of other species aged between 6 and 7 million to have been bipedal. This new discovery of D. guggenmosi suggest that bipedalism evolved before the hominin branch of the evolutionary tree split from the branch of chimpanzees and bonobos. This split is dated to around 7 million years ago.

Palaeoanthropologist, Madelaine Boheme from the University of Tubingen in Germany, who co-led the research, claims that the research may pose a real problem in defining what is a hominin as one of and our ancestor’s key features has always been bipedalism.

The bones which in particular suggest that the D. guggenmosi walked on two feet are the vertebrae and leg bones. Some of the vertebrae show that the ape had a long and flexible lower back. This is crucial to walking upright because it allows to shift the weight of the upper body over the hips. The legs additionally support this theory because the knee and ankle bones contain weight-bearing adaptations able to support the full body weight of the ape on its legs. The strong hands and arms give us a picture of the ape’s ability to grab and hang from


IELTS Academic Reading Section 1- multiple choice/identifying information/summary


branches. This implies that the D. guggenmosi lived in trees and had a unique way of moving around. It walked on two legs but used its powerful upper body limbs to hang.

Some critics of the theoryargue that not enough spine fragments were found to unanimously conclude bipedalism and additionally it is very difficult to say with certainty how apes move just by studying bone. Furthermore the  D. guggenmosi is much older than the first hominins. Therefore, an assumption that hominins are direct descendants of this new-found ape would be far-fetched. The research team has yet to conduct an evolutionary analysis to determine how or whether D. guggenmosi is related to humans. On the other hand this discovery is very significant because it suggests apes developed bipedalism more than once and also could give clues on what kinds of conditions encouraged apes to walk on two feet.

Adapted from Nature

Section 1  Question 1-14

Question 1-4

Choose option A, B, C, D to correctly complete the sentence


According to the article what is key characteristic when defining what is a hominin?


What did the fossil remains of the spine and arm bones suggest?


According to the article what happened 4.4 million years ago?


What does bipedalism mean?

Questions 5-10

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the article?

Write :

TRUE if the statement agrees with the information

FALSE if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this


Madelaine Bohme was not the only researcher studying the Danuvius guggenmosi. 


A flexible lower back allows animals to walk upright. 


Apart from the vertebrae no other bones show evidence of bipedalism. 


The D. guggenmosi was both a ground and tree dweller. 


There are researchers that cannot conclude from the evidence that the D. guggenmosi used bipedal walking 


The study shows that the D. guggenmosi is our direct ancestor. 

Questions 11-14

Complete the summary using the list of words, A-G, below.

A  straight                       B   ape                      C   upright             D     remains       E     research

 F     bipedalism             G    vertebrae


The discovery of the  11
 of a 11.6 million year old  12
might change the way we view our  13
. It turns out that long before our time there lived an ape that walked  14
, and used its strong hands to hang from tree branches. Further research is needed to conclude whether we are a direct descendant of the D. guggenmois.


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