How humans evolved to become better throwers than chimps
Washington, June 27, 2013
First Published: 15:12 IST(27/6/2013)
Last Updated: 20:20 IST(27/6/2013)
Human’s unique ability to throw better than our chimpanzee cousins can all be narrowed down to one thing - evolution.
A study by George Washington University researcher Neil Roach claims that little leaguers and professional baseball players alike have our extinct ancestors to thank for their success to pitch so well.
Of course, the ability to throw fast and accurately did not evolve so our ancestors could play ball.
Dr. Roach’s study proposes that this ability first evolved nearly 2 million years ago to aid in hunting.
“When humans throw, we first rotate our arms backwards away from the target. It is during this ‘arm-cocking’ phase that humans stretch the tendons and ligaments crossing their shoulder and store elastic energy,” Dr. Roach said.
“When this energy is released, it accelerates the arm forward, generating the fastest motion the human body produces, resulting in a very fast throw,” he said.
Dr. Roach and colleagues also found that certain anatomical features in the torso, shoulder and arm that evolved in our hominin ancestors made this energy storage possible.
These features that allow humans to throw so well first appeared in the species Homo erectus approximately 2 million years ago.
“We think that throwing was probably most important early on in terms of hunting behavior, enabling our ancestors to effectively and safely kill big game,” Dr. Roach said.
“Eating more calorie-rich meat and fat would have allowed our ancestors to grow larger brains and bodies and expand into new regions of the world—all of which helped make us who we are today,” he added.
The findings are published in the journal Nature.