Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why we run 

A question for evolutionary biologists: Why are humans uniquely suited to long-distance running? Perhaps so that we can run our quarry to ground.

(Warning: Main page NSFW.)


By Blogger Simon Kenton, at Wed Apr 27, 10:05:00 AM:

This is a good story, but it doesn't stress or mention a critical skill for this type of hunting. You have to be able to single out your quarry based on tracks, at those times when it has gotten out of sight. With that ability you can keep up the pressure; without, the particular animal you are trying to exhaust can screen itself in a herd and recover while you hare off after another. This is an attainable skill but requires a good deal of focus. "All black (white) faces look alike to me." How much more true about all ungulate tracks; they are as distinct as human faces in their shapes, their position in the track matrix, their stride, the tiny scorings that traverse them, but you have to train yourself intensely to differentiate them.  

By Blogger Stack Trace, at Wed Apr 27, 11:52:00 AM:

I imagine hunger is a fine tutor.  

By Blogger Barnabus, at Wed Apr 27, 07:50:00 PM:

I thought the point was to be able to run it down AFTER you've wounded it with a spear or bow and arrow; i.e. you force it to bleed to death, not sweat to death.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Apr 27, 09:22:00 PM:

It seems that Barnabus may have simply and elegantly exposed the 'ivory tower gap' of this here study...

In retrospect, why would a typical anthropologist know anything about hunting game on foot? My anthropology instructor was 120 lbs soaking wet.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Wed Apr 27, 11:13:00 PM:

Perhaps related: the single tribe in Kenya's Rift Valley which accounts for most of the world's magnificent steeplechasers has historically set status (and bride-price) on possession of multiple cattle, captured from others by surprise and driven long distances. Anyone familiar with reading Gaelic history (and American Scots-Irish history) will recognise cattle rustling as well. Barnabus points out a significant weakness in the single-target theory, which would not apply to this one.

The time frame is far less - animals were semi-domesticated less than 10,000 years ago - but evolution has been much quicker in that time period. Also, traits tend to slowly disappear if they are not needed, and many of the environments once out of Africa would not confer much advantage on distance running.  

By Blogger Stephen, at Sun May 01, 03:27:00 PM:

Lame science. If you do a test and it is consistent with your theory, that does not prove the theory. What of the fact that most biodiversity is in forests and half the world was probably covered in forests before agriculture. If we descend from monkeys, then we probably lived in forests more than on plains or in deserts. I doubt we chased animals through forests where they could hide. Could the ability to travel long distances be useful for walking? For migration to find food after eating everything available in one area?  

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