If we compare the modern human anatomy to apes and primates, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, we’d see a disconnect. Our physical structure is way different from them. Scientists have found out one surprising answer: running.
Persistence hunting, an activity that enabled our ancestors to hunt animals that are way faster than them, is believed to have caused us to evolve in the way we look today. Such form of running is not very fast. You may wonder: how fast does the average person run during persistence hunting?
What is Persistence Running?
Compared to other animals, humans have one remarkable trait: our ability to lose body heat by sweating. Although most animals are fast enough to outrun us, they cannot continue to run for an extended period due to the accumulation of heat and the eventual exhaustion.
Persistence running is a hunting technique that makes use of this fact. Early human hunters pursue their prey over long distances for extended periods until they become exhausted.
The hunters need not outrun the prey—they only need to outlast them. Another primary attribute that allows humans to do this is humans comparatively less hair that. Coupled with sweating, humans can maintain a normal body temperature.
The ability to maintain a normal body temperature equates to an improved endurance. Other mammals who are covered with fur and does not sweat to release heat need to stop to rest and cool down.
Persistence Running In The Modern World
In Southern Africa, at the center of the Kalahari Desert, hunter-gatherers who use persistence hunting as a method, still, exist.Tarahumara natives who lives in the northwestern part of Mexico, are also believed to employ persistence hunting as a method of catching prey.
These two places are known for their arid condition. In midday, temperatures can range from 40-42 degrees Celsius. This heat works for the hunters as animals easily get exhausted after a short run.
Persistence running is so effective that people in Kenya have been reported to have caught two cheetahs that are killing their goats after hours of persistence hunting.
Evolution Of Human Structure
Compared to apes and primates, the humans are efficient runners. This brings a question to mind: are humans designed to run? Or did evolution cause a structural change in the human structure giving it the ability to run?
Biologists Dennis Bramble from the University of Utah and Daniel Lieberman from Harvard University believed that we have evolved from being a tree-dwelling to running creatures due to years of hunting.
Lieberman and Bramble argue that the only way humans evolve to have the modern anatomical features is through long-distance running over extended periods. This is based on the result of their study published in the journal Nature on November 18, 1994.
This did not happen overnight. Millions of years of hunting caused us to change our skeleton-muscular structure. In fact, it may have also caused us to lose most of our hairs.
How Fast Does an Average Person Run During Persistence Hunting?
Under normal conditions, an average male human can run 8.3 miles per hour or cover 100 meters in 27 seconds. Persistence hunting, however, is a lot different feat. Unlike other forms of hunting, the immediate goal of persistence hunting is not to spear down an animal. Instead, to pursue an animal for hours over long distances until exhaustion.
Persistence hunting is most effective during midday. Hunters need to pursue an animal for two to five hours over a distance of 25 to 35 kilometers. Thus, the answer to the question is pretty straight forward: roughly 117 meters per minute or two meters per second.
It may not seem fast enough, but the speed is just right for the human body to recuperate while running slowly continually. Under the extreme heat and over long distances, 2 meters per second is the perfect rate for a human to persist running until the prey is successfully caught.
Peak Speed Of Persistent Hunters
Identifying the peak speed of persistent hunters is difficult. However, there is one way for us to have an accurate estimate. One method, which somehow resembles the running pattern in persistence hunting, is currently being used by athletes to improve their speed: tempo running.
Existing documentations may not provide us with the data on early humans’ running speed but based on the results of the tempo running, one thing is certain. Given the opportunity, the strength of the legs of the early humans, developed through regular persistence running, could have run faster or, at least, as fast, as current sprinters and runners: 45 kilometers per hour.
By revisiting the human ancestry, we’ll remember that humans are originally not meant to be runners but climbers. On top of that, humans run in two feet compared to other animals. It’s amazing how we evolved to be runners and how we’ve managed to attain such a speed as runners.