April 22, 2007

Humans evolved for marathoning?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at April 22, 2007 11:28 PM

Here's an interesting theory that humans evolved for distance running:

Modern humans and their immediate ancestors such as Homo erectus sport several adaptations that make humans, instead of some ferocious, furry, or fleet creature, the animal world’s best distance runners.

...

Specifically, we developed long, springy tendons in our legs and feet that function like large elastics, storing energy and releasing it with each running stride, reducing the amount of energy it takes to take another step. There are also several adaptations to help keep our bodies stable as we run, such as the way we counterbalance each step with an arm swing, our large butt muscles that hold our upper bodies upright, and an elastic ligament in our neck to help keep our head steady.

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Though those adaptations make humans and our immediate ancestors better runners, it is our ability to run in the heat that Lieberman said may have made the real difference in our ability to procure game.

Humans, he said, have several adaptations that help us dump the enormous amounts of heat generated by running. These adaptations include our hairlessness, our ability to sweat, and the fact that we breathe through our mouths when we run, which not only allows us to take bigger breaths, but also helps dump heat.

This ought to settle the long-standing distance running vs. sprinting debate I recall from high school track. We distance runners can just wait for a hot day and then persistence-hunt the sprinters into submission. However, as much as I like this theory, I have to question this statement from its proponent:

“Humans are terrible athletes in terms of power and speed, but we’re phenomenal at slow and steady. We’re the tortoises of the animal kingdom,” Lieberman said.

Um, surely the tortoises are the tortoises of the animal kingdom?

Tags: Evolution, Running, Science
Comments

Well, maybe Lieberman just meant to say 'mammals.'

It reminds me of a comment that somebody wrote in Beverly Hills Weekly that "children are like people [followed by how that's the case]" (as opposed to the 'children are like adults' which was intended).

Posted by: Mason | April 23, 2007 1:37 AM

I evovled to drive a prius... definalty not to run.

Posted by: shellock | April 23, 2007 6:39 AM

Distance runners, I salute you.

A few more drinks here in Hong Kong and your body double qual committee could pass for a Hime family reunion.

Posted by: JSpur | April 24, 2007 5:53 AM

The "children are like people" comment is priceless.

Oh, and lol, he said "large butt muscles".

Do you suppose it also makes us better dancers? I mean, a (female) dancer with long, springy legs can do this thing where her hips trace a figure eight in the air, and then all the guys prove that they have long, springy jaws. (Ha! Bait and switch.)

Posted by: Lemming | April 24, 2007 10:18 AM

The "children are like people" comment is priceless.

Oh, and lol, he said "large butt muscles".

Do you suppose it also makes us better dancers? I mean, a (female) dancer with long, springy legs can do this thing where her hips trace a figure eight in the air, and then all the guys prove that they have long, springy jaws. (Ha! Bait and switch.)

Posted by: Lemming | April 24, 2007 10:19 AM

i r teh nub. ;;

Posted by: Lemming | April 24, 2007 10:53 AM
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