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3d illustration of Australopithecus afarensis male.  Source: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Adobe Stock

How Bipedalism in Ancient Humans Led to Fur Loss (Video)


Humans underwent a significant evolutionary shift around 2 million years ago, marked by the emergence of Homo erectus and the transition to bipedalism. This transition likely played a pivotal role in the gradual loss of fur. Australopithecus, preceding Homo erectus, likely possessed a considerable amount of fur for thermoregulation and protection against the elements. However, as Homo erectus adopted a fully upright posture, exposing more skin to the sun, the need for efficient cooling mechanisms became paramount.

The connection between bipedalism and fur loss lies in the necessity for effective cooling during persistence hunting, a hunting method that Homo erectus is believed to have employed. Homo erectus, with its naturally thinner fur, would have been better equipped to regulate body temperature through sweating, allowing for prolonged hunting expeditions without overheating. This evolutionary advantage likely contributed to the success of Homo erectus as persistence hunters and favored the propagation of genes for reduced fur coverage.

Furthermore, the development of more eccrine sweat glands and finer vellus hairs in humans enabled efficient cooling through evaporation, further reducing the necessity for thick fur. While humans retained hair on certain parts of the body for protection and signaling purposes, the overall trend towards reduced fur coverage reflects the intricate interplay between locomotion, thermoregulation, and evolutionary adaptation.

Top image: 3d illustration of Australopithecus afarensis male. Source: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Adobe Stock

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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