TeeJaw Blog

I Might Still Be Able To Outrun a Neanderthal

Posted in evolutionary biology by TeeJaw on Saturday, February 5, 2011, 10: 07 AM

Having been a lifelong runner, for pleasure as well as exercise, I was interested in this article in the New Scientist holding forth on the running abilities of Neanderthals. Apparently, there has been a running controversy for some time over Neanderthals’ inferior running ability. The article claims it is now settled that a Neanderthal would lose a race with a modern human. It’s something to do with their achilles tendon. The achilles tendon in modern humans stores energy and puts a spring in our step. (I thought it was the sight of a pretty girl that did that).

Sluggish Neanderthals lacked a springy achilles. It’s anybody’s guess as to why. It could be that unlike the mods on the African plain who lived off large animals that had to be chased down, the Neanderthal lived in a cool mountain climate and captured their prey by lying in wait to ambush them. Natural selection did not exert any pressure to develop an unnecessary skill.

Or it could have a lack of feminine pulchritude. Neanderthals were short, squat, and heavy-boned people.

I’ve found out the hard way that it isn’t just the achilles tendon that is needed to be a runner. The ham string muscle is pretty important also. Mine was torn a few years back, putting an end to my running career. Tears, unlike strains, don’t heal. The orthopedist explains it this way: You can’t suture muscle any easier than you could suture two pieces of custard pie together.

It’s no coincidence that “tear” and “tear” are spelled identically.

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