After 15 minutes of sustained running, fit humans can outlast nearly all mammals, especially in hot weather.
Lieberman and others hypothesize that roughly 2 million years ago Homo erectus ancestors, armed with sharpened sticks and stones, were able to kill prey by persistence hunting. This strategy, practiced in some recent forager societies, entails pursing a tasty herbivore in midday sun until the animal collapses from exhaustion and heat stroke. Hunters can then finish it off with simple weapons.
This scenario could solve a major puzzle in human evolution: how did Homo erectus get meat? Researchers assume these hominins hunted because archaeological sites, between 2 and 1 million years old, have yielded plenty of butchered animal bones. Yet stone tools back then were hefty implements, like the Acheulean handaxe — technology better suited for processing carcasses than impaling moving targets. Projectile weapons, like the bow and arrow, were probably not invented until the past 80,000 years. It’s hard to imagine handaxe-wielding hominins catching much prey, especially since they would have been competing with lions, hyena and other African carnivores.
Ethnographic studies have noted persistence hunts in some recent hunter-gatherer societies, including Kalahari Bushmen, Aboriginal Australians and Native American groups in the American Southwest and Mexico. A 2006 Current Anthropology paper provided the first real data on the matter, based on 10 persistence hunts in the Kalahari of Botswana (one was filmed for David Attenborough’s docu-series Life of Mammals ).
These hunts, which were successful five out of 10 times, lasted up to 6 hours and covered 10-20 miles in temperatures over 100°F. During the chases, prey would sprint ahead in short bursts punctuated by resting bouts. Meanwhile the humans slowly and steadily pursued, averaging paces of 9.6 to 15 minutes per mile. Though the hunters periodically lost sight of the animal, signs like footprints and indented grass indicated its path.
Solves a lot of very interesting questions together. Have you seen this yet @NLENTS?