Do humans possess recovery that "is absurdly high compared to almost any other animal?"

If we’re not adapted to persistence hunting, what other behavior would explain that level of endurance capability? Even nomadic stone age people would have had tools and things to carry when they migrated from one place to another, not to mention the young and elderly who couldn’t keep up that pace. A short sprint would be fine for escaping predators like lions.

I suppose it could be an accidental trait resulting from a good heat exchange system, but it seems more like a good heat exchange system is a result of persistence hunting.

If it helps, imagine that persistence hunters don’t exclusively run down the animal. Rather, they first select a weak one, then they stick it with a spear. A primitive spear isn’t likely to kill from long range, so now you have chase the wounded animal and catch up with it. This kind of scenario doesn’t exactly require ultra-marathoners, but it certainly requires substantial endurance.

I think that in some tribes, the persistence hunting thing was used as a rite of passage. When a boy becomes a man, he has to run down an antelope or whatever all by himself… once. After that, when he joins the rest of the guys in bringing home the venison, they use ambushes and spears and group tactics and all the rest of our toolkit.

Humans cannot out sprint large predators. Running also triggers their chase instinct.

Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying that people could out sprint a large predator. I mentioned that to eliminate the possible argument that humans run marathons because they needed to escape lions.

Tardigrades and starfish laugh at puny humans. I’m guessing the OP means mammals instead of animals.

Bears, rhinos, elephants, and other large mammals can shrug off low caliber bullets that would kill a person, or at least ruin their day.

From everything I’ve read and heard, it seems like horses are fragile. If they break a leg, especially if it’s a low injury, it can’t recover at all since it basically shatters and they die from infection and blood loss. They can’t vomit, so if they eat a poison they’re dead. Their digestive systems are vulnerable to all sorts of things, resulting in death from colitis. They can’t lie down for long periods of time without suffering serious health risks. Any surgery has a time limit of a couple of hours. Not sure if that’s a general problem for large quadrupeds or if it’s a specific issue with the equine body plan.

Anecdote alert - with quote.

I once found a kitten on a highway median. It had been hit and had a broken hip and a compound fracture of one femur. Not that I could see all of that at the time. He was settling down, making a kitty loaf to rest in the drizzle.

When I took him to a vet, she was only concerned with possible nerve damage. His tail was shifted into a sort of corkscrew shape, which meant at least temporary damage to nerves that ran near the nerves controlling bowel and bladder control.

Once he showed continence, she scheduled surgery. His hip was split through the femur joint, so the hip was pinned, the femur was pinned, and the head of the femur was removed, to keep his weight from pushing on the weakened joint.

The vet’s comment: “They say that if both sides of a cat’s broken bone are in the same room, they’ll heal.”

He never showed the slightest sign of shock.

Humans have evolved to a point where they can get easily treated for serious injuries, could somehow survive in extreme weather conditions, and do a zillion more things that gives them an advantage over other species. But take all those away humans will be seriously crippled in their abilities to survive.

Of course, it will all boil down to willpower to be able to survive (like stories about humans surviving in the wilderness for X number of days). But not all are equipped with that kind of sheer determination to keep on living. Or are equipped with the know-how in how one would live without all the comforts they’ve taken for granted, like using/gathering from the immediate environment to take care of their shelter, food, what have you.

In the long run lower species will still out perform us when it comes to endurance and survival. They’ve evolved to a point that they survived, and still survive, despite the odds that are stacked highly against their favour.

Or not.. :smiley:

I’m wary of any pat evo-devo explanation, myself. I think it’s likely a grab-bag of factors, none of which is the “killer app” of human success.

Humans as a species would not be crippled in their abilities to survive without all our technology. Such an impaired survival ability would only occur if you set up a scenario where individual humans accustomed to certain conditions were suddenly forced to adapt to very different conditions.

There are thousands of humans who still live a pretty primitive lifestyle and still don’t have access to our more recent technologies. They get along quite well and are often (if not always) dominant species in the environments the inhabit.

We haven’t stepped out the natural world or lost the traits that we evolved in just a few dozen generations. We still possess the same physical and mental abilities our ancestors had. What has happened is that in many parts of the world we’ve used our technology to modify our environment and lifestyles to such a degree that we no longer rely on a great deal of those physical traits and basic survival skills day to day, and as a result would perform pretty bad in those areas if suddenly forced… that is until we got back into practice.

Much like an athlete or other skilled performer who takes a break from practicing their given activity… in the “off-season” they can’t perform as well as they can when they are training/practicing regularly.

You see the same thing in zoo animals (at least in older-style exhibits); they can get cage-fat and probably suffer significant declines in some of their skill-oriented behaviors. A lion born in captivity, housed alone, and fed dead cows parts every day for 10 years would be at a disadvantage if suddenly dropped back into the Serengeti and left to fend for it’s self… not because it lost any evolutionary traits but simply because it became de-conditioned. That’s not the same thing as losing the evolutionary adaptations to survive. We can still survive just fine without modern technology… in fact we’d actually out-perform many of the “lower” species due to our inherent ability to adapt to and manipulate different environments, even with the most basic technology such as pointy sticks, fire, and using the skins of animals we kill.

I can’t think of a single case where humans are not the dominant species.

I know that sweating plays a part in our endurance, but apart from that, isn’t it more a matter of intelligence than actual superior physical endurance? The fact that we determine a goal, know that by keeping running we can reach it, and that we’ll be better off in the end for it, even if it’s exhausting and painful at the moment?

mmmiiikkkeee, there are somewhere between zero and one humans in the entire world who live without advanced technology, and the “one” is only to allow for the possibility of an undiscovered feral child somewhere who was raised by wolves. Technology does not mean airplanes and iPods. Technology means knapped flint spearheads.

Yes, I know that. I never mentioned the term “advanced” technology or lack there of. I did specifically comment on more recent and modern technology such as hospitals/rifles/motorized vehicles and so on… the types of technology some here are saying most humans would not be able to survive without. Plenty of humans don’t have access to these yet still survive quite well.

Hang on I think I might see what Chronos’s confusion was: possibly the last line of my longer post. In that line I say (hypothetically) that humans would survive and out-compete other animals even if they only had basic technology (like pointy sticks instead of knapped arrowheads and such); and that’s true.

I didn’t say any of us actually don’t have “advanced-stone age” technology. I said some of us currently don’t have modern/recent technology like the examples given by others.


The article in the OP was clearly talking about humans physiological ability to recover from injuries, not the ability of human society to help it’s member’s recover.

They’re not say that human society can keep you alive when any other species would die (which it would even in very early protohuman society, see Homo Erectus example above) , they are saying the actual human body is physiologically better at recovering than other species, that I’ve not seen any evidence for.

With which part of my post are you disagreeing?

No horse, dog or sheep could run the bad water ultra marathon.

Over extreme distance, humans are the best. In the heat of a day it’s not even a contest.

It’s other things too. For example, bipedalism is slower but more energy efficient than running on four legs. And the muscles & tendons of our feet & legs are constructed in a way as to maximize energy efficiency.

So on the subject of hip replacement surgery, dogs recover faster than humans.

The real question is why would humans have more durability? You get a trait because it serves an evolutionary purpose. What in our evolutionary history would make us more durable? Alligators recover from wounds well and have advanced immune systems because they are violent towards each other and live in microbe infested waters. Humans probably do not see as much violence or infection as alligators do. If anything because we are social animals you’d assume we had less predators than solitary animals. But then we have intergroup violence too.