Thursday, April 29, 2010

BBC Video of a Persistence Hunt shows us to be Born Runners

Scientific evidence supports the notion that humans evolved to be runners. In a 2007 paper in the journal Sports Medicine, Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a Harvard evolutionary biologist, and Dr. Dennis Bramble, a biologist at the University of Utah, wrote that several characteristics unique to humans suggested endurance running played an important role in our evolution.

Most mammals can sprint faster than humans — having four legs gives them the advantage. But when it comes to long distances, humans can outrun almost any animal. Because we cool by sweating rather than panting, we can stay cool at speeds and distances that would overheat other animals. On a hot day, the two scientists wrote, a human could even outrun a horse in a 26.2-mile marathon.

Why would evolution favor the distance runner? The prevailing theory is that endurance running allowed primitive humans to incorporate meat into their diet.  They may have watched the sky for scavenging birds and then run long distances to reach a fresh kill and steal the meat from whatever animal was there first.

Other research suggests that before the development of slingshots or bows, early hunters engaged in persistence hunting, chasing an animal for hours until it overheated, making it easy to kill at close range. 
A 2006 report in the journal Current Anthropology documents persistence hunting among modern hunter-gatherers, including the Bushmen in Africa.  “Ancient humans exploited the fact that humans are good runners in the heat,” Dr. Bramble said. “We have such a great cooling system” — many sweat glands, little body hair.

The following exceptional BBC video by David Attenborough beautifully depicts the Kalahari Bushmen from Namibia and Botswana engaging in a persistence hunt.  This video well depicts the human hunter's ability to engage in an all-day hunt, with all of our evolutionarily-favored attributes being clearly shown, i.e. our: superior cooling, ability to reason (necessary to read the tracks of the prey to discern and deduce its movements) and the type of social and communication skills necessary in the lengthy stalking period leading-up to the chase and in carrying the animal back to the village. 

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