Genetics Human evolution Intelligent Design Mind

Did a broken gene improve running and help humans conquer the planet?

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Humans apparently have a broken version of CMP-Neu5Ac Hydroxylase (CMAH), which helps build a sugar molecule that impacts running:

Despite our couch potato lifestyles, long-distance running is in our genes. A new study in mice pinpoints how a stretch of DNA likely turned our ancestors into marathoners, giving us the endurance to conquer territory, evade predators, and eventually dominate the planet.

“This is very convincing evidence,” says Daniel Lieberman, a human evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who was not involved with the work. “It’s a nice piece of the puzzle about how humans came to be so successful.”Elizabeth Pennisi, “This broken gene may have turned our ancestors into marathoners—and helped humans conquer the world” at Science

The changes are estimated to have happened between two and three million years ago. We are cautioned that “Mice are not humans or primates,” says Best’s adviser at UMass, Jason Kamilar, a biological anthropologist also not involved with the new work. “The genetic mechanisms in mice may not necessarily translate to humans or other primates.”

The Race between Atalanta and Hippomenes, by Nicolas Colombel (1644–1717), Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna. Atalanta is slowed as she picks up the golden apples rolled down by her rival

It may turn out that more than genetic mechanisms are involved. Humans who succeed at running train both body and mind for the purpose. And there is a whole culture around running. We aren’t born swift, only “swift-able.” One could just as easily turn around and write a pop science story on how we “evolved to be” couch potatoes.

In a world where even plants turn out to be full of complex intelligence, no simple, naturalist (materialist) explanation is at all likely. Go here for lots of them but they’re only a small sample.

See also: Researcher asks, if ecology caused the human brain to grow so large, what about the role of language?


Human evolution researchers: Social challenges decreased brain size.

3 Replies to “Did a broken gene improve running and help humans conquer the planet?

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    Amongst the Bushmen of the Kalahari, there are a few men each generation who can catch antelope by running them down. The secret begins with picking out a fat old buck to chase. The secret continues with the hunter performing like a marathon runner: never stop the chase, never try to catch him with speed alone.

    After what may take hours, the antelope is exhausted, and the man jogs up and straggles him to death.

    I can’t believe there is ANY other primate whose engineering and mindset can duplicate this. So I’m pretty sure we did NOT inherit Long Distance Running from gorillas.

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    We inherited long distance antelope hunting.

  3. 3
    random.dent says:

    Persistence hunting evolved beginning over 2 million years ago with changes to sweat glands, longitudinal foot arches, and the achilles tendon, among others. H. erectus and H. habilis display some of these adaptations.

    I first learned about this from a childhood friend who could catch rabbits that way. He would jog after one for 30-45 mins until it collapsed panting. Then he would pet it until it cooled down and ran away.

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