One of the most important traits that can teach us about modern human biology is bipedalism. Australopithecus africanus had a shortened, bowl-shaped pelvis, as well as leg and foot bones similar to modern day humans that allow us to walk upright on two legs. This is an important difference from other primates who have longer pelvises more suited for quadrupedal locomotion. Bipedalism is an important trait because it gave us the ability to see longer distances, therefore making finding food and avoiding predators easier. Studying this is very important for anthropologists to know when early humans gained the ability to walk on two feet. While bipedalism is something most humans take for granted as we learn to walk upright early in life, this was a very important step in early hominin evolution. Bipedalism also had some disadvantages in that it made it harder to climb trees and live in an arboreal habitat. However, there must have been more advantages than disadvantages since our species was able to survive.
The teeth of early hominins are another important trait that can tell anthropologists a lot about modern human biology. Teeth are often reflective of the diet of the species. By looking at the teeth, you can tell if an animal is more adapted to be an herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore. Humans and early hominins have a variety of shapes and sizes which are perfect for our varied diets. Studying the teeth of early hominins can tell anthropologists about what different species ate and can see where our diets diverged from other primates. It also shows how teeth have evolved in species over time, and how quickly traits like teeth can evolve. Our dental structure is one of the biggest differences between humans and modern day apes.
Brain size is another important trait that anthropologists can learn a lot from. Large brain size is one of the biggest differences between modern humans and earlier hominin species. Our larger brain size has allowed humans to process and store a lot of information. This is helpful for early survival when encountering new habitats. Although early hominins were able to walk upright and use tools, it is the larger brain size that allowed humans to start interacting with our environment in increasingly complicated ways. More complex tools, forming more complicated social structures, and developing culture are all important parts of modern human society that is only possible due to our large brain size.
All of these traits are very important markers in hominin development and were crucial steps in the evolution of early hominins. These are all things that are very important traits in modern humans as well. By learning about our ancestors and studying the fossils of their skeletons, we can learn a lot about how modern humans got to be who we are. We cannot move forward without knowing where we’ve been. Knowing about the evolution of our species and closely related species we are able to better understand our species and how we work.