Humans are the Ultimate Running Animal

first_img Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferNASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This Weekend Chimps are three feet tall and can rip your arms off, right? Not quite. Pop culture would have you believe that apes like gorillas and chimps are ludicrously strong. To a degree, that’s right. Gorillas as massive animals and they can certainly throw their strength around — pretty spectacularly in fact. But it’s not like humans don’t have similar specialized adaptations. That’s the conclusion of a new study from the University of Arizona.A team of researchers, led by Matthew O’Neill, an anatomy and evolution researcher, looked at the musculature of thigh and calf muscles of several chimps, comparing those with known data for humans and found that fiber-for-fiber, we’re just as strong as our cousins.The difference, it seems, comes from the type of muscle fibers we each have. Chimps, the data suggest, have more fast-twitch fibers. These are good for bursts of strength. Humans, on the other hand, have among the highest concentration of slow-twitch fibers among a variety of animals like mice, dogs, and horses. This gives us remarkable endurance relative to almost all other species.Ostensibly, our shift to slow-twitch fibers could help explain a good chunk of our evolutionary past. The adaptation for endurance would help us with distance running and walking and would be a solid fit for bipedalism.“Instead of thinking about the results as pointing to greater strength in chimpanzees, we might instead want to consider … what the greater percentage of slow-twitch fibers in humans means to our unique locomotion method, bipedalism.” Anne Burrows, a biological anthropologist at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh who was not involved in the study told Science Magazine. “I think that’s the bigger story here.”via it certainly seems to be. There was a meme going around a year or two ago talking about how humans could easily be the horror monster in a sci-fi epic. We heal unusually quickly, we’re ridiculously intelligent, and we can run for far, far farther than most people think. Even at a light job, if the distance is long enough, humans outpace horses. This helped us spread all over the world in what is, biologically, the blink of an eye. Compare that to Neanderthals, for example, who had pelvises that were built for strength and minimal movement.This isn’t quite enough to say definitely that we’ve solved a mystery in human evolution, or even that we know for sure that our ancestors, like australopithecines, had the same type of musculature that we do. It’s also worth noting that the study only looked at leg muscles — which could skew results. Human legs are, without question, built for endurance, but we don’t know if we, as a species, are for sure.If so, more research could help shed light on how humans came to dominate the planet. Slow-twitch fibers use far less energy and would free up metabolic resources for bigger brains. While we wait for the science, just make sure you don’t get into an arm-wrestling match with a chimp anytime soon. Chances are very, very good that you’ll lose.Plus, there’s another thing we should probably address. It’s common to marvel at the animal world and think that humans are kind of mundane by comparison. But we really are not. Every animal adapts to what they need. And it’s very, very important to remember that the whole concept of the “survival of the fittest” is based on an out of context quote. Darwin himself would be the first to tell you that it is not the strongest or the most intelligent that survives, but those that can adapt to change. With our advanced locomotion alone, plus the fact that we can cook almost anything (like crab) that we didn’t evolve to eat and immediately make it edible means that we are a force to behold. Just because we can’t see ten miles away like eagles, or run as fast as cheetahs, or lift as much as a gorilla doesn’t mean that humans don’t kick ass.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on targetlast_img

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