Thursday, November 18, 2004

We started it all

From the BBC Website. This story shows the true contribution that
runners have made:


Running 'key to human evolution'

Long-distance running may have been a driving force behind evolution
of the modern human body, scientists say.
American researchers said humans began endurance running about 2
million years ago to help hunt for prey, influencing the development
of the human body.

Previous studies have suggested running was purely a by-product of walking.

But the study, published in Nature, said humans evolved big buttocks,
a balanced head and longer legs to help gather food.

Professor Dennis Bramble, of the University of Utah, and Professor
Daniel Lieberman, of Harvard University, reported that early human
beings may have needed to run long distance to help hunt prey or
scavenge animal carcasses on the African savannah.

Without the development from running, humans would be much more like
apes with shorter legs, smaller heads and a hunched posture, the
scientists said.

While human are poor sprinters in comparison to many animals, they
perform well when it comes to long-distance running.

After examining 26 human body features essential for endurance
running, the pair concluded humans may have evolved as they did from
their ape-like ancestors because they could run long-distances.

Important attributes for endurance running include skull structure to
prevent over-heating, ligaments to give spring, long legs to increase
stride length and independent head and shoulder movement to aid
balance.

The scientists said because of natural selection, our ape-like
ancestors, known as Australophithecus, who were good at running
survived, while shorter-legged ancestors died out.

Professor Bramble said: "Today endurance running is primarily a form
of exercise and recreation but its roots may be as ancient as the
origin of the human genus and its demands a major contributing factor
to the human body form.

"Running may have helped hunters get close enough to throw projectiles
or perhaps even to run some mammals to exhaustion in the heat."