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Ethnohistorical analysis suggests that endurance running evolved with persistence hunting

Humans are unusually adept at endurance running, due in part to specialized muscle fibres and heat elimination by sweating. Cost–benefit analyses and an ethnohistorical survey of hunting methods suggest that these features could have evolved through the pursuit of evasive species until they are overcome with exhaustion and easily dispatched.

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Fig. 1: Societal locations for which there is ethnohistorical evidence of endurance pursuits.


  1. Baughman, M. 1978. In pursuit of an ancient pursuit. Sports Illustr. 48, 45–46, 49 (1978). A personal account of an endurance pursuit, which is uncanny in its similarity to some described in the ethnohistorical data.

  2. Carrier, D. R. The energetic paradox of human running and hominid evolution. Curr. Anthropol. 25, 483–495 (1984). An early comprehensive statement of the endurance pursuit hypothesis.

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  3. Liebenberg, L. Persistence hunting by modern hunter‐gatherers. Curr. Anthropol. 47, 1017–1026 (2006). A detailed, yet accessible, account of persistence hunting by San men in the Kalahari Desert.

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  4. Bramble, D. M. & Lieberman, D. E. Endurance running and the evolution of Homo. Nature 432, 345–352 (2004). The endurance pursuit hypothesis laid out in anatomical and biomechanical terms.

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  5. Morin, E., Bird, D., Winterhalder, B. & Bliege Bird, R. Deconstructing hunting returns: can we reconstruct and predict payoffs from pursuing prey? J. Archaeol. Meth. Theory 29, 561–623 (2022). An analysis that compares the productivity of different methods of prey capture.

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This is a summary of: Morin, E. & Winterhalder, B. Ethnography and ethnohistory support the efficiency of hunting through endurance running in humans. Nat. Hum. Behav. (2024).

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Ethnohistorical analysis suggests that endurance running evolved with persistence hunting. Nat Hum Behav (2024).

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