Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Homo Marathonus

Humans differ from other animals in many ways: our brains, minds, culture and all that they imply (e.g. language);  our manual dexterity; and our throwing abilities. Another discriminating trait: we can run long distances faster than other animals. How much faster? Elite runners can sustain 6.5 meters per second over long distances (e.g. two kilometers). Average human runners pace between 3.2 and 4.2 meters per second. Horses come in at 5.8 and dogs at 3.8.  And humans can sustain this advantage over long distances.  Other animals soon tire, which implies that we catch up with them (if we're chasing them for food).  Humans may have used this technique of "persistence hunting," essentially exhausting game, before we developed tools that could be used against animals energized to defend themselves.

Our physiology, including muscle and leg structure, preponderance of slow-twitch muscle fiber, and superior perspiration system allows us to run long distances without overheating, even in warm weather.  In fact, warm weather increases our advantage over other animals.

There are theories that humans might have scavenged by sighting circling vultures and running long distances, beating hyenas, and even using rocks as projectiles to drive away predators and/or other scavengers while the meat was collected.