Step by Step: Evolution of Bipedalism

Overview: Bipedalism is a defining characteristic of modern humans that evolved over millions of years. Therefore, identifying evidence for bipedalism in the fossil record can help determine what selective pressures may have affected human evolution. This lesson examines the significance of bipedalism, anatomical adaptations exhibited by hominins, and discusses possible climatic influences on bipedal evolution. Students should have a basic understanding of osteology (i.e. skeletal anatomy). You can download a PDF version of this lesson here  (1.62 Mb).


  • To understand the significance of identifying bipedal evidence within the fossil record.
  • To become familiar with the morphological adaptations associated with bipedalism.
  • To become familiar with the environmental and behavior pressures that may have affected bipedal locomotion.


A. Introduction to Bipedalism
B. Anatomical Evidence for Bipedalism
C. Fossil and Geologic Evidence
D. Conclusions
E. Activities and Review
G. References


  • You will identify the fossil evidence for the evolution of bipedalism.
  • You will hypothesize about the evolutionary pressures affecting bipedal behavior.
  • You will familiarize yourself with the adaptations necessary for habitual (or obligate) bipedalism.

Required Materials: Pen, pencil, digital calipers (or ruler), actual size cast of human cranium (if available).  If downloaded, copies of attached sections A-G of this lesson.

Expected classroom hours: 2 hrs (Assigning reading as homework is recommended to decrease class time.)

Suggested Supplemental Lessons or Resources:

Last updated 23 Jan 2012.