Gluteus maximus muscle function and the origin of hominid bipedality

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Abstract

Bipedality not only frees the hands for tool use but also enhances tool use by allowing use of the trunk for leverage in applying force and thus imparting greater final velocity to tools. Since the weight and acceleration of the trunk and forelimbs on the hindlimbs must be counteracted by muscles such as m. gluteus maximus that control pelvic and trunk movements, it is suggested that the large size of the cranial portion of the human gluteus maximus muscle and its unique attachment to the dorsal ilium (which is apparent in the Makapan australopithecine ilium) may have contributed to the effectiveness with which trunk movement was exploited in early hominid foraging activities. To test this hypothesis, the cranial portions of both right and left muscles were investigated in six human subjects with electromyography during throwing, clubbing, digging, and lifting. The muscles were found to be significantly recruited when the trunk is used in throwing and clubbing, initiating rotation of the pelvis and braking it as trunk rotation ceases and the forelimb accelerates. They stabilize the pelvis during digging and exhibit marked and prolonged activity when the trunk is maintained in partial flexion during lifting of heavy objects.

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