Fossil footprints can tell how fast people walked or ran, study finds

April 22, 2013 at 4:24 PM
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MADRID, April 22 (UPI) -- A new way to estimate an individual's speed based on stride length could have uses in the study of fossil trackways of human footprints, Spanish scientists say.

Researcher Javier Ruiz from the Complutense University of Madrid and his colleague Angelica Torices from the University of Alberta in Canada said they've designed an equation to predict an individual's walking or running speed based on their tracks.

In experiments measuring stride length from footprints created on a Spanish beach by Madrid student and without needing any other data such as leg length, they were able to achieve a high degree of accuracy with a margin of error of 10 percent to 15 percent, a release from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology reported Monday.

"For humans, we are able to calculate speed based on stride length alone with a very good degree of accuracy," Madrid researchers Javier Ruiz said.

The researchers have applied their formula to estimate the speed at which the humans were travelling who left the Pleistocene-era fossil trackways found in Australia.

"A previous study had made a very elaborate calculation of their speed but the results were as high as if they had been professional athletes," Ruiz said, noting his results show a more reasonable sprint pace.

The equation and the resulting calculation works whether the individuals are running or walking, Ruiz said.

"There is a little more variability in running but even so it works very well," he said.

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