Early humans won at running; Neandertals won at walking

Feb 07, 2011 by Lin Edwards report
Calcaneus (heel bone) fracture X-ray. Image: Wikipedia.

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research has compared the performance of the heels of modern-day distance runners to the heels of Neandertals and ancient Homo sapiens. The results show the Neandertals' heels were taller than those of modern humans and Homo sapiens, and more adapted to walking than running over long distances, while those of Homo sapiens were more adapted to endurance running.

Assistant Professor of , Dr David Raichlen of the University of Arizona in Tucson, and colleagues, found that unlike modern humans, the Neandertal heel was taller would have provided less spring during running, and speculated that the heel probably stabilized the ankle and helped in jumping and walking uphill. In the heel is lower and stretches the and increases its ability to act like a spring and reduce the consumption of energy.

Dr Raichlen and colleagues had eight distance runners run on a treadmill at 10 mph (16 km/h) for periods of 10 minutes and calculated their rates of oxygen consumption. In different running periods, they also took (MRI) scans of their heels and Achilles tendons.

The results showed the heel bones were shorter and lower in the runners whose while running was most efficient.

The heel measurements were compared with those of 13 fossil Homo sapiens dated from 30-100,000 years ago and with six Neandertals from around the same period. The researchers’ calculations suggest that during running the Homo sapiens would have expended 6.9% more energy than modern distance , but Neandertals would have needed an average of about 11.4% more energy.

The results suggest that while Neandertals may not have fared well in long-distance marathons, their bone structures would have given them an advantage in walking and in activities requiring great strength.

The results of the research support earlier findings that long-distance running in Homo sapiens evolved over two million years ago and probably helped early humans in hunting before spears began to be widely used about 400,000 years ago. The ability to run long distances in hot environments is thought to help in running prey to exhaustion. Neandertals lived in colder climates and probably needed different skills in hunting.

The paper was published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Explore further: Study provides new look at ancient coastline, pathway for early Americans

More information: Calcaneus length determines running economy: Implications for endurance running performance in modern humans and Neandertals, by David A. Raichlen et al., Journal of Human Evolution, Article in Press, doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.11.002

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Skeptic_Heretic
4.6 / 5 (12) Feb 07, 2011
Before we had ranged weapons to catch our prey with we must've had a way to acquire our meals.

There's one adaptation we have that (i think) no other animal has. The ability to sweat. We're not fast, we're not strong, but we can run forever compared to other animals, even in advanced age. To me, it is a reasonable assumption that the way we dealt with grassland was to spot our prey from far off and run it to exhaustion with the entire social group in tow.
JRDarby
5 / 5 (6) Feb 07, 2011
Other animals have the ability to sweat, but the glands are largely localized. For example, dogs sweat between the pads on their paws but no where else. I don't mean to attack your argument in any way; I just wanted to clarify a point.
Modernmystic
3.8 / 5 (5) Feb 07, 2011
Before we had ranged weapons to catch our prey with we must've had a way to acquire our meals.

There's one adaptation we have that (i think) no other animal has. The ability to sweat. We're not fast, we're not strong, but we can run forever compared to other animals, even in advanced age. To me, it is a reasonable assumption that the way we dealt with grassland was to spot our prey from far off and run it to exhaustion with the entire social group in tow.


I can't remember where but I saw a documentary where modern bushmen do this.
AdseculaScientiae
not rated yet Feb 07, 2011
Interesting, but many questions arise to me, especially about the Neanderthals.

What was the advantage of longdistance walking for the Neanderthals? Did they use their brains more for catching pray with tactics? Or were they stealthy instead of quick? Did their diet consist of berries, leaves and other edible static resources, or did they mostly searched the land for already dead or sick animals?

They must have had a pretty good way to getting their food, but I'm really wondering which it was.
PinkElephant
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 07, 2011
@Skeptic_Heretic,

I'm pretty sure horses sweat. And generally, most of the hoofed animals are much better long-distance runners than humans.

I'd even go farther and say that most four-legged animals are better runners than humans, period. I mean, try and go for a run alongside a wolf; see who passes out from exhaustion sooner...

If running was key to the hunting activities of the early Homo Sapiens, then it would imply they would have preferentially hunted slow-moving prey that's only good at sprinting. Things like boars. Or other great apes, perhaps...

On the other hand, early Homo Sapiens was at least as much a prey as predator, particularly on the steppes of Africa. Perhaps running was merely a way to elude roving packs of hyenas, big cats, and other similar threats -- particularly the sort of predators that can track your scent and thus give chase over long distances.

Then there's fight-or-flight. Sometimes it's easier to survive a conflict by running away...
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (4) Feb 07, 2011
I'm pretty sure horses sweat. And generally, most of the hoofed animals are much better long-distance runners than humans.

I'd even go farther and say that most four-legged animals are better runners than humans, period. I mean, try and go for a run alongside a wolf; see who passes out from exhaustion sooner...
You and I being fat, lazy, never exercised social human beings haven't had to run for our dinner, ever, at least I haven't outside of the service. Beyond that, a horse cannot maintain a high speed run for longer than a human being can. Llanwrtyd Wells hosts a man vs horse race over 22 miles every years since 1980. 2004 a man won it, every year prior it had been a very close race.

As for wolves, yes, they run faster, but all species of canis cannot run extended distances. When it comes to running, we are certainly in a league of our own. Our anatomy only indicates running as a primary activity. (cont).
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (4) Feb 07, 2011
We're absolutely loaded with features that are unnecessary for walking. The size of our achilles tendons, our overly large glutei, the robustness of our knee joints, but primarily, our temperature control systems. If you have experience with horses you know that once they really heat up, they're done for the day. We're not. Beyond that we don't fall off our peak like other animals.

As for being able to run to escape predators, that's nonsense. They're all faster than us in burst, but none of them can run the distances we can.
Terrible_Bohr
5 / 5 (3) Feb 07, 2011
It's interesting to think that we humans might have a physical trait besides our brains to brag about. But now that I think about it, isn't one of the possible reasons we lost our body hair to regulate our temperature during extended activity?

I have two greyhounds, and I take them jogging every morning. These dogs are retired racers, and a heckuvalot faster than I am. But I don't take them more than about a mile, as they begin to pant so hard they look like they're about to explode. Greyhounds aren't going to be finishing any marathons.
braindead
5 / 5 (3) Feb 07, 2011
I think we are also mentally prepared for endurance too. Like that really sublime mental state we enter when doing physical endurance activities like long-distance running. That must be a plus to maintain the pace on a long chase.
pubwvj
2 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2011
What was the advantage of longdistance walking for the Neanderthals? Did they use their brains more for catching pray with tactics? Or were they stealthy instead of quick?


Umm... You missed an important detail. The Neanderthals lost. They died out. We won the race. So far.
pubwvj
5 / 5 (2) Feb 07, 2011
I have two greyhounds, and I take them jogging every morning. These dogs are retired racers, and a heckuvalot faster than I am. But I don't take them more than about a mile, as they begin to pant so hard they look like they're about to explode. Greyhounds aren't going to be finishing any marathons.


Interesting. We have dogs that are more timber / arctic wolf like. They run and run and run and run and just keep on going. Ours work on our farm as herding and guarding dogs. They can do very fast bursts but generally they do long distance running. They'll run our perimeter which can be miles up and down the mountains. Wolf vs Greyhound tactic. Us vs Neanderthal. Lots of room in evolution and the world for many wonderful variations.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Feb 07, 2011

Interesting. We have dogs that are more timber / arctic wolf like. They run and run and run and run and just keep on going.
The main question here would be, what breed?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.2 / 5 (10) Feb 07, 2011
I think skeptic is getting his running info from here:
http
://discovermagazine.com/2006/may/tramps-like-us
Umm... You missed an important detail. The Neanderthals lost. They died out. We won the race. So far.
Thats because we are tropical while they most likely had become a more temperate species. Our reproduction was not correlated with the seasons. If so, we could easily have out-reproduced them (and our resources.)

Inuits can stand motionless over a seal breathing hole in the ice for 6 hours or more. Running down prey is less useful in the snow.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2011
I think skeptic is getting his running info from here:
http
://discovermagazine.com/2006/may/tramps-like-us
Actually no, but that's not a bad article if you want an overview.
MacDougal is one of the few I've paid attention to in this aspect.

htp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-iGZPtWXzE

That's his latest TED talk. It's certainly interesting.

PinkElephant
2.8 / 5 (4) Feb 07, 2011
@Skeptic_Heretic,
a horse cannot maintain a high speed run for longer than a human being can.
Well that may be, but a horse's "high speed" is not the same as a human's "high speed". So, over a given period of time, a horse covers far more distance. In that spirit, consider the migrations of zebra herds in Africa, or Caribou in North America. They routinely cover thousands of kilometers every season. By comparison, a human marathoner might put up a nice long-distance performance once, but would then need a week's rest to recover...
Llanwrtyd Wells hosts a man vs horse race over 22 miles every years since 1980. 2004 a man won it, every year prior it had been a very close race.
But the horse is forced to carry a human on its back the whole way: not exactly a fair race, is it? Plus, what breed of horses are they racing? American Mustangs routinely cover 30 miles per day, *every day* -- without even trying. No human could keep up with that.
PinkElephant
4 / 5 (2) Feb 07, 2011
As for wolves, yes, they run faster, but all species of canis cannot run extended distances.
Oh, I doubt it. Wolves actually use the same concept of exhaustion running: they give chase, and don't let go until the prey basically drops to its knees.
When it comes to running, we are certainly in a league of our own.
But thing is, our other abilities as long-distance trackers are hobbled. Our sense of smell is all but atrophied; how can we track our prey through forests and tall grasses? Our prey is faster than us at short-distance running, which means it's routinely out of our line of sight. How do you keep chasing down the same animal, and not mistake it for another animal at some point mid-chase?
As for being able to run to escape predators, that's nonsense. They're all faster than us in burst, but none of them can run the distances we can.
Yes, and we have excellent eyesight. If you can spot them coming a long distance away, then you have the margin to outrun them.
Justavian
5 / 5 (4) Feb 07, 2011
Humans are the best long distance runners in all of the animal kingdom. The fact that we can sweat, and the fact that we can carry water with us makes us vastly superior to other animals - not to mention the fact that our bodies are shaped just right for long distance running. The fact that our breathing is not physically tied to our stride is another big help.

American Mustangs routinely cover 30 miles per day, *every day* -- without even trying. No human could keep up with that.


A man can outrun a horse over any significant distance. It's been done over and over. As the distance increases, humans will get further and further ahead. Only 30 miles per day? My brother is an ultrarunner, and on *mountainous* terrain has covered 100 miles in a race in under 24 hours. He has run daily marathons for a week without a problem. The Tarahumara have been known to run 80 miles per day in 90-100 degree weather. A horse would be down after 10 miles.
Ethelred
4 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2011
American Mustangs routinely cover 30 miles per day, *every day* -- without even trying. No human could keep up with that.
Romans marched 50 miles a day. On roads of course.

You guys are using hyperbole. Humans CANNOT outrun all animals even over distance. On HOT days some YOUNG Africans do try to run down SOME animals. Mostly it seems to be species that overheat. Some humans can and do run over a hundred miles a day for several days at altitude but it is more of a jog. Don't remember why but it was in the Andes. They have HUGE lungs and I think that heat is not much of an issue.

I suspect the big advantage the humans had on the Veld was the ability to go out in the Noon Day Sun. As for Neanderthal I don't think we outran them. Lots of things must have been involved but I recall that Neanderthal has a shoulder muscle that is arranged for power in such a way that it would make them lousy with thrown weapons. Chimps can't throw well either despite the long arms.

Ethelred
Djincs
not rated yet Feb 08, 2011
Go in youtube and surch for:
David Attenborough-African Kalahari desert Kudu persistant hunt.
I cant copy paste the link, the sistem thinks I am a spammer!
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2011
As for wolves, yes, they run faster, but all species of canis cannot run extended distances.
Oh, I doubt it. Wolves actually use the same concept of exhaustion running: they give chase, and don't let go until the prey basically drops to its knees.
Yes, they actually catch it first and drag it down. We did not. We ran animals to exhaustion. Otherwise you'll have to tell me where we got our condensed caloric content from without edged or pointed weapons sufficient enough to bring down other animals.

We certainly didn't overpower them, use our teeth or claws, and we weren't faster by a long shot.

So how exactly did we do it then?

But thing is, our other abilities as long-distance trackers are hobbled. Our sense of smell is all but atrophied; how can we track our prey through forests and tall grasses?
PE...
Yes, and we have excellent eyesight. If you can spot them coming a long distance away
You answered your own question.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2011
So, over a given period of time, a horse covers far more distance.
This is false as well. in heat horses cannot run for any extended period of time. Secondly, their stride is about 1/4th the length of ours. Human trainers keep up with horses at full trot without difficulty. Full gallop cannot be maintained for extended periods of time.
In that spirit, consider the migrations of zebra herds in Africa, or Caribou in North America. They routinely cover thousands of kilometers every season.
And they stop quite often, performing the bulk of their migrations in colder weather where our heat control is not to our advantage.
By comparison, a human marathoner might put up a nice long-distance performance once, but would then need a week's rest to recover...
Absolutely false. Military training for some units puts you through a marathon a day for months. Most professional marathon runners exercise and ramp up for marathons on a daily basis.
Djincs
not rated yet Feb 08, 2011
"But thing is, our other abilities as long-distance trackers are hobbled. Our sense of smell is all but atrophied; how can we track our prey through forests and tall grasses?"

Watch this thing I gave in youtube, this people read the landmarks as book, other thing is that they try to think as animal and to deduse where it will run to.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (7) Feb 08, 2011
By comparison, a human marathoner might put up a nice long-distance performance once, but would then need a week's rest to recover...
IS OTTO THE ONLY ONE HERE TO USE GOOGLE??? Unglaublich.

"The Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race is the world's longest certified footrace.

This multiday race is hosted by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and takes place in Queens, New York in the USA from June-August every year. The course is a little over one-half mile long and is run on the concrete sidewalk around a school, a playing field and a playground. The runners have 51 days in which to complete the distance - an average of 60.78 miles every day."

-My father described a hunting technique, I think he called it slow stalking. I tried it once, creeping real slow, and got within 30 ft of some deer I didnt even know were there.
PinkElephant
3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2011
All right, I give up! Seems *some* humans really are much better at endurance-running than I was aware of. I guess I must be an evolutionary throw-back though, since I could never manage more than a couple of miles even when I was in top athletic shape...

@SH,

Here's the thing about running prey to exhaustion: it's very doubtful that the running anatomy emerged in full glory ex nihilo. It must've been a gradual process of refinement, which means that for a long period of time our ancestors were very mediocre runners. Question is, what natural pressure(s) could've selected for those traits anyway, even while the traits weren't yet refined enough to be useful for hunting?

One possibility might be carrion (you see a couple of vultures circling on the horizon; the faster you get there, the better the odds of finding a corpse that hasn't been completely stripped yet...)
Moebius
not rated yet Feb 12, 2011
We were probably running from Neanderthals. Until we learned how to kill them.

The dog is probably the best long distance runner. They can run all day to run down prey.

Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Feb 12, 2011
All right, I give up! Seems *some* humans really are much better at endurance-running than I was aware of. I guess I must be an evolutionary throw-back though, since I could never manage more than a couple of miles even when I was in top athletic shape...
This might sound crazy, but I bet it's easier for you to run long distances barefoot rather than wearing shoes.
sherriffwoody
1 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2011
By comparison, a human marathoner might put up a nice long-distance performance once, but would then need a week's rest to recover...
IS OTTO THE ONLY ONE HERE TO USE GOOGLE??? Unglaublich.

"The Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race is the world's longest certified footrace.

This multiday race is hosted by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and takes place in Queens, New York in the USA from June-August every year. The course is a little over one-half mile long and is run on the concrete sidewalk around a school, a playing field and a playground. The runners have 51 days in which to complete the distance - an average of 60.78 miles every day."

-My father described a hunting technique, I think he called it slow stalking. I tried it once, creeping real slow, and got within 30 ft of some deer I didnt even know were there.

best you wake up then
Moebius
not rated yet Feb 13, 2011
PinkElephant.... One possibility might be carrion (you see a couple of vultures circling on the horizon; the faster you get there, the better the odds of finding a corpse that hasn't been completely stripped yet...)


If you are implying that we were carrion eaters I think you are wrong for a couple reasons. First, carrion eaters are generally evolved to resist almost any kind of bacteria found in a dead body, we aren't. Carrion eaters have specialized mouth parts to eat meat, we lost our canines before we learned how to run. Most dead bodies have the predator around that probably killed it. If we had the means to take the prey from a predator, we had the means to kill prey ourselves in the first place. Monkeys don't eat carrion, they go out and kill something when they want meat, including other monkeys. Sounds like a family trait.

We were not carrion eaters to any extent that changed our physiology.
Moebius
1 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2011
As for wolves, yes, they run faster, but all species of canis cannot run extended distances. When it comes to running, we are certainly in a league of our own.


You are wrong on both counts. Running all day is exactly what dogs were evolved to do, they are not ambush predators, they don't hide, they chase. That is why they evolved their incredible sense of smell, to stay on the trail and run down prey.

We aren't talking burst running which people are selectively mixing up with a trot or lope. Many other animals like antelopes or even Bison can run all day. We are by no means in a league of our own or the best.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Feb 13, 2011
Running all day is exactly what dogs were evolved to do, they are not ambush predators, they don't hide, they chase.
Actually that's false. Dog's have an evolved sense of smell so that they can stalk and scavenge. Most dog breeds aren't hunters, they're thieves.
Many other animals like antelopes or even Bison can run all day.
No, they can't. We didn't have to run at a full sprint all day. All we had to do was be fast enough to keep them scared. This is still done today, to the very animals you say we can't kill in that manner.
htp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUpo_mA5RP8
Start at 2 minutes.