Humans evolved from ape-like ancestors because they needed to run long distances – perhaps to hunt animals or scavenge carcasses on Africas vast savannah – and the ability to run shaped our anatomy, making us look like we do today.
That is the conclusion of a study published in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal Nature by University of Utah biologist Dennis Bramble and Harvard University anthropologist Daniel Lieberman. The study is featured on Natures cover.
Bramble and Lieberman argue that our genus, Homo, evolved from more ape-like human ancestors, Australopithecus, 2 million or more years ago because natural selection favored the survival of australopithecines that could run and, over time, favored the perpetuation of human anatomical features that made long-distance running possible. "We are very confident that strong selection for running – which came at the expense of the historical ability to live in trees – was instrumental in the origin of the modern human body form," says Bramble, a professor of biology. "Running has substantially shaped human evolution. Running made us human – at least in an anatomical sense. We think running is one of the most transforming events in human history. We are arguing the emergence of humans is tied to the evolution of running."
The study by Bramble and Lieberman concludes: "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."
Prof. Dennis Bramble | EurekAlert!
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