Humans As Cursorial Hunters

The New York Times is getting up to speed on this subject:

The scientific evidence supports the notion that humans evolved to be runners. In a 2007 paper in the journal Sports Medicine, Daniel E. Lieberman, a Harvard evolutionary biologist, and Dennis M. 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.

I wrote about this five years ago in an early post:

Cursorial hunters that hunt in packs occupy a pretty specialized ecological niche. It’s probably not a coincidence that we took up company with another species that occupied the same niche: dogs. We just ran into them along the way.

And, as I pointed out in that post, the idea was first proposed well over a century ago by Friedrich Engels (yes, that Engels).

The key to good science isn’t data collection or experimentation or grant-writing. It’s observation and we moderns do not have a corner on that market.

2 comments… add one
  • Brett Link

    That’s no surprise – at least from what I’ve read, endurance played a big role in hunting in the prehistoric method (namely, chasing a group of animals and herding them over a cliff or into an area where they could be slaughtered).

  • steve Link

    There are a number of pieces written by runners who have run down deer. It takes some knowledge of territory and their habits since they can temporarily lose you, but they do not have the endurance.

    Most science involves observation at some level. I think that is why economics is going to need to change quite a bit. Stiglitz had a nice little piece recently on this. EMH needs major mods. The behavioralists need to be let in and macro will need to account for what really happens in the world. Bubbles happen, people are irrational sometimes.


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