Study: short legs made human predecessors better fighters

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Our ape-like predecessors kept their stout figures for 2 million years because having short legs ironically gave them the upper-hand in male-male combat for access to mates, finds a new study.

Living from 4 million to 2 million years ago, early hominins in the genus Australopithecus are considered immediate predecessors of the human genus Homo, and had heights of around 3 feet 9 inches for females and 4 feet 6 inches for males.

Until now, the squat physiques of australopiths and other human predecessors were considered an adaptation for climbing in tree canopies. Like surfing or any other sport that requires balance, having a lower center of mass boosts stability and, in turn, success at the activity.

"The old argument was that [apes] retained short legs to help them climb trees that still were an important part of their habitat," said the study author David Carrier, a biologist at the University of Utah. "My argument is that they retained short legs because short legs helped them fight."

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