Ecological Energetics in Early Homo

Herman Pontzer
Current Anthropology
Vol. 53, No. S6, Human Biology and the Origins of Homo (December 2012), pp. S346-S358
DOI: 10.1086/667402
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/667402
Page Count: 13
  • Download PDF
  • Cite this Item

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

Ecological Energetics in Early Homo
We're having trouble loading this content. Download PDF instead.

Page Thumbnails

Abstract

Models for the origin of the genus Homo propose that increased quality of diet led to changes in ranging ecology and selection for greater locomotor economy, speed, and endurance. Here, I examine the fossil evidence for postcranial change in early Homo and draw on comparative data from living mammals to assess whether increased diet quality has led to selection for improved locomotor performance in other lineages. Body mass estimates indicate early Homo, both males and females, were approximately 33% larger than australopiths, consistent with archeological evidence indicating an ecological change with the origins of our genus. However, many of the postcranial features thought to be derived in Homo, including longer hind limbs, are present in Australopithecus, challenging the hypothesis that early Homo is marked by significant change in walking and running performance. Analysis of energy budgets across mammals suggests that the larger body mass and increased diet quality in early Homo may reflect an increase in the hominin energy budget. Expanding the energy budget would enable greater investment in reproduction without decreasing energy available for larger brains or increased activity. Food sharing and increased adiposity, which decrease variance in food energy availability, may have been integral to this metabolic strategy.

Notes and References

This item contains 100 references.

References Cited
  • ['Aiello, Leslie, and Christopher Dean. 1990. An introduction to human evolutionary anatomy. London: Academic Press.']
  • ['Aiello, Leslie C., and Catherine Key. 2002. Energetic consequences of being a Homo erectus female. American Journal of Human Biology 14:551–565.']
  • ['Aiello, Leslie C., and Peter Wheeler. 1995. The expensive tissue hypothesis: the brain and digestive system in human and primate evolution. Current Anthropology 36:199–221.']
  • ['Alexander, R. McNeill. 1991. Energy-saving mechanisms in walking and running. Journal of Experimental Biology 160:55–69.']
  • ['Antón, Susan C. 2012. Early Homo: who, when, and where. Current Anthropology 53(suppl. 6):S278–S298.']
  • ['Antón, Susan C., William R. Leonard, and Marcia L. Robertson. 2002. An ecomorphological model of the initial hominid dispersal from Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 43:773–785.']
  • ['Antón, Susan C., and J. Josh Snodgrass. 2012. Origins and evolution of genus Homo: new perspectives. Current Anthropology 53(suppl. 6):S479–S496.']
  • ['Asfaw, Berhane, Tim D. White, C. Owen Lovejoy, Bruce M. Latimer, Scott W. Simpson, and Gen Suwa. 1999. Australopithecus garhi: a new species of early hominid from Ethiopia. Science 284:629–635.']
  • ['Barrickman, Nancy L., and Maggie J. Lin. 2010. Encephalization, expensive tissues, and energetics: an examination of the relative costs of brain size in strepsirrhines. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 143:579–590.']
  • ['Berger, Lee R., Darryl J. de Ruiter, Steven E. Churchill, Peter Schmid, Kristian J. Carlson, Paul H. G. M. Dirks, and Job M. Kibii. 2010. Australopithecus sediba: a new species of Homo-like australopith from South Africa. Science 328:195–204.']
  • ['Biewener, Andrew A., Claire T. Farley, Thomas J. Roberts, and Marco Temaner. 2004. Muscle mechanical advantage of human walking and running: implications of energy cost. Journal of Applied Physiology 97:2266–2274.']
  • ['Bordes, Frédéric, Serge Morand, and Boris R. Krasnov. 2011. Does investment into “expensive” tissue compromise anti-parasitic defence? testes size, brain size and parasite diversity in rodent hosts. Oecologia 165:7–16.']
  • ['Bramble, Dennis M., and Daniel E. Lieberman. 2004. Endurance running and the evolution of Homo. Nature 432:345–352.']
  • ['Bunn, Henry T., and Travis R. Pickering. 2010. Bovid mortality profiles in paleoecological context falsify hypotheses of endurance running-hunting and passive scavenging by early Pleistocene hominins. Quaternary Research 74:395–404.']
  • ['Carbone, Chris, Guy Cowlishaw, Nick J. B. Isaac, and Marcus Rowcliffe. 2005. How far do animals go? determinants of day range in mammals. American Naturalist 165:290–297.']
  • ['Carrier, David R. 1984. The energetic paradox of human running and hominid evolution. Current Anthropology 25:483–495.']
  • ['Charnov, Eric L., and David Berrigan. 1993. Why do female primates have such long lifespans and so few babies? or life in the slow lane. Evolutionary Anthropology 1:191–194.']
  • ['Conroy, Glenn C., and Herman Pontzer. 2012. Reconstructing human origins. 3rd edition. New York: Norton.']
  • ['Dart, Raymond A. 1949. The predatory implemental technique of the australopithecines. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 7:1–16.']
  • ['———. 1957. The osteodontokeratic culture of Australopithecus prometheus. Memoir (Transvaal Museum) 10. Pretoria: Transvaal Museum.']
  • ['Darwin, Charles D. 1871. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London: J. Murray.']
  • ['Dean, Christopher, Meave G. Leakey, Donald Reid, Friedemann Schrenk, Gary T. Schwartz, Christopher Stringer, and Alan Walker. 2001. Growth processes in teeth distinguish modern humans from Homo erectus and earlier hominins. Nature 414:628–631.']
  • ['Dean, M. Christopher, and B. Holly Smith. 2009. Growth and development of the Nariokotome youth, KNM-WT 15000. In The first humans: origins and evolution of the genus Homo. Fred E. Grine, ed. Pp. 101–120. New York: Springer.']
  • ['DeJaeger, Dominique, Patrick A. Willems, and Norman C. Heglund. 2001. The energy cost of walking in children. European Journal of Physiology 441:538–543.']
  • ['Fish, Jennifer L., and Charles A. Lockwood. 2003. Dietary constraints on encephalization in primates. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 120:171–181.']
  • ['Garland, Theodore, Jr. 1983a. The relation between maximal running speed and body mass in terrestrial mammals. Journal of Zoology (London) 199:157–170.']
  • ['———. 1983b. Scaling the ecological cost of transport to body mass in terrestrial mammals. American Naturalist 121:571–587.']
  • ['Grabowski, Mark W., John D. Polk, and Charles C. Roseman. 2011. Divergent patterns of integration and reduced constraint in the human hip bone and the origins of bipedalism. Evolution 65:1336–1356.']
  • ['Haeusler, Martin, and Henry M. McHenry. 2004. Body proportions of Homo habilis reviewed. Journal of Human Evolution 46:433–465.']
  • ['Haile-Selassie, Yohannes, Bruce M. Latimer, Mulugeta Alene, Alan L. Deino, Luis Gibert, Stephanie M. Melillo, Beverly Z. Saylor, Gary R. Scott, and C. Owen Lovejoy. 2010. An early Australopithecus afarensis postcranium from Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107:12121–12126.']
  • ['Harcourt-Smith, William E. H., and Leslie C. Aiello. 2004. Fossils, feet and the evolution of human bipedal locomotion. Journal of Anatomy 204:403–416.']
  • ['Harris, Michelle, and Karen Steudel. 1997. The selection of hind limb length in the Carnivora: the influence of daily movement distance, home range area, prey size, latitude, and prey capture method. Journal of Zoology (London) 241:381–408.']
  • ['Hawkes, Kristen, James F. O’Connell, Nicholas G. Blurton Jones, Eric L. Charnov, and Helen Alvarez. 1998. Grandmothering, menopause, and the evolution of human life histories. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 95:1336–1339.']
  • ['Holliday, Trenton W. 2012. Body size, body shape, and the circumscription of the genus Homo. Current Anthropology 53(suppl. 6):S330–S345.']
  • ['Isbell, Lynne A., Jill D. Pruetz, Michelle Lewis, and Truman P. Young. 1998. Locomotor activity differences between sympatric patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas) and vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops): implications for the evolution of long hindlimb length in Homo. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 105:199–207.']
  • ['Isler, Karin, and Carel P. van Schaik. 2006. Costs of encephalization: the energy trade-off hypothesis tested on birds. Journal of Human Evolution 51:228–243.']
  • ['———. 2009. The expensive brain: a framework for explaining evolutionary changes in brain size. Journal of Human Evolution 57:392–400.']
  • ['———. 2012. How our ancestors broke through the gray ceiling: comparative evidence for cooperative breeding in early Homo. Current Anthropology 53(suppl. 6):S453–S465.']
  • ['Jones, Kate E., and Ann M. MacLarnon. 2004. Affording larger brains: testing hypotheses of mammalian brain evolution on bats. American Naturalist 164:E20–E31, doi:10.1086/421334.']
  • ['Jungers, William L. 1982. Lucy’s limbs: skeletal allometry and locomotion in Australopithecus afarensis (A.L. 288-1). Nature 297:676–678.']
  • ['Kram, Rodger, and C. Richard Taylor. 1990. Energetics of running: a new perspective. Nature 346:265–267.']
  • ['Latimer, Bruce. 1991. Locomotor adaptations in Australopithecus afarensis: the issue of arboreality. In Origine(s) de la bipedie chez les Hominides. Yves Coppens and Brigitte Senut, eds. Pp. 169–176. Paris: CRNS.']
  • ['Leakey, Louis S. B., Philip V. Tobias, and John R. Napier. 1964. A new species of genus Homo from Olduvai Gorge. Nature 202:7–9.']
  • ['Leakey, Meave G., Craig S. Feibel, Ian MacDougall, and Alan Walker. 1995. New four-million-year-old hominid species from Kanapoi and Allia Bay, Kenya. Nature 376:565–571.']
  • ['Lee, Richard B., and Irven Devore. 1968. Man the hunter. Piscataway, NJ: Aldine Transaction.']
  • ['Lejeune, Thierry M., Patrick A. Willems, and Norman C. Heglund. 1998. Mechanics and energetics of human locomotion on sand. Journal of Experimental Biology 201:2071–2080.']
  • ['Leonard, William R., and Marcia L. Robertson. 1997. Comparative primate energetics and hominid evolution. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 102:265–281.']
  • ['Lordkipanidze, David, Tea Jashashvili, Abesalom Vekua, Marcia S. Ponce de León, Christoph P. E. Zollikofer, G. Philip Rightmire, Herman Pontzer, et al. 2007. Postcranial evidence from early Homo from Dmanisi, Georgia. Nature 449:305–310.']
  • ['Lovejoy, C. Owen. 1981. The origin of man. Science 211:341–350.']
  • ['Lovejoy, C. Owen, Gen Suwa, Scott W. Simpson, Jay H. Matternes, and Tim D. White. 2009. The great divides: Ardipithecus reveals the postcrania of our last common ancestor with African apes. Science 326:73.']
  • ['Marlowe, Frank W. 2005. Hunter-gatherers and human evolution. Evolutionary Anthropology 14:54–67.']
  • ['McHenry, Henry M. 1991. Femoral lengths and stature in Plio-Pleistocene hominids. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 85:149–158.']
  • ['———. 1992. Body size and proportions in early hominids. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 87:407–431.']
  • ['———. 1994. Behavioral ecological implications of early hominid body size. Journal of Human Evolution 27:77–87.']
  • ['McNab, Brian K. 1986. The influence of food habits on the energetics of eutherian mammals. Ecology Monographs 56:1–19.']
  • ['Nagy, Kenneth A., I. A. Girard, and Tracey K. Brown. 1999. Energetics of free-ranging mammals, reptiles, and birds. Annual Review of Nutrition 19:247–277.']
  • ['O’Connell, James F., Kristen Hawkes, and Nicholas G. Blurton Jones. 1999. Grandmothering and the evolution of Homo erectus. Journal of Human Evolution 36:461–485.']
  • ['O’Connell, James F., Kristen Hawkes, Karen D. Lupo, and Nicholas G. Blurton-Jones. 2002. Male strategies and Plio-Pleistocene archaeology. Journal of Human Evolution 43:831–872.']
  • ['Payne, Rachel C., Robin H. Crompton, Karin Isler, Russell Savage, Evie E. Vereecke, Michael M. Günther, Susannah K. Thorpe, and Kristiaan D’Aout. 2006. Morphological analysis of the hindlimb in apes and humans. 1. Muscle architecture. Journal of Anatomy 208:709–724.']
  • ['Plavcan, J. Michael. 2012. Body size, size variation, and sexual size dimorphism. Current Anthropology 53(suppl. 6):S409–S423.']
  • ['Pontzer, Herman. 2007. Limb length and the scaling of locomotor cost in terrestrial animals. Journal of Experimental Biology 210:1752–1761.']
  • ['———. 2012. Relating ranging ecology, limb length, and locomotor economy in terrestrial animals. Journal of Theoretical Biology 296:6–12.']
  • ['Pontzer, Herman, and Jason M. Kamilar. 2009. Great ranging associated with greater reproductive investment in mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 106:192–196.']
  • ['Pontzer, Herman, David A. Raichlen, Robert W. Shumaker, Cara Ocobock, and Serge A. Wich. 2010a. Metabolic adaptation for low energy throughput in orangutans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107:14048–14052.']
  • ['Pontzer, Herman, David A. Raichlen, and Michael D. Sockol. 2009. The metabolic cost of walking in humans, chimpanzees, and early hominins. Journal of Human Evolution 56:43–54.']
  • ['Pontzer, Herman, Campbell Rolian, G. Philip Rightmire, Tea Jashashvili, Marcia S. Ponce de León, David Lordkipanidze, and Christoph P. E. Zollikofer. 2010b. Locomotor anatomy and biomechanics of the Dmanisi hominins. Journal of Human Evolution 58:492–504.']
  • ['Raichlen, David A., Adam D. Gordon, William E. H. Harcourt-Smith, Adam D. Foster, and W. Randall Haas Jr. 2010. Laetoli footprints preserve earliest direct evidence of human-like bipedalism. PLoS ONE 5:e9769.']
  • ['Rapoport, Benjamin I. 2010. Metabolic factors limiting performance in marathon runners. Public Library of Science, Computational Biology 6:e1000960.']
  • ['Roberts, Thomas J., Michael S. Chen, and C. Richard Taylor. 1998. Energetics of bipedal running. 2. Limb design and running mechanics. Journal of Experimental Biology 201:2753–2762.']
  • ['Ruff, Christopher. 2009. Relative limb strength and locomotion in Homo habilis. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 138:90–100.']
  • ['Ruff, Christopher B. 1994. Morphological adaptation to climate in modern and fossil hominids. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 37:65–107.']
  • ['Ruff, Christopher B., Erik Trinkaus, and Trenton W. Holliday. 1997. Body mass and encephalization in Pleistocene Homo. Nature 387:173–176.']
  • ['Ruff, Christopher B., and Alan Walker. 1993. Body size and shape. In The Nariokotome Homo erectus skeleton. Alan Walker and Richard Leakey, eds. Pp. 234–265. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.']
  • ['Schmidt-Nielsen, Knut. 1999. Animal physiology: adaptation and environment. 5th edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.']
  • ['Schwartz, Gary T. 2012. Growth, development, and life history throughout the evolution of Homo. Current Anthropology 53(suppl. 6):S395–S408.']
  • ['Shipman, Pat, and Alan Walker. 1989. The costs of becoming a predator. Journal of Human Evolution 18:373–392.']
  • ['Sibly, Richard M., and James H. Brown. 2007. Effects of body size and lifestyle on evolution of mammal life histories. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 104:17707–17712.']
  • ['Simpson, Scott W., Jay Quade, Naomi E. Levin, Robert Butler, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, Melanie Everett, and Sileshi Semaw. 2008. A female Homo erectus pelvis from Gona, Ethiopia. Science 322:1089–1092.']
  • ['Sockol, Michael D., David A. Raichlen, and Herman Pontzer. 2007. Chimpanzee locomotor energetics and the origin of human bipedalism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 30:12265–12269.']
  • ['Stern, Jack T., Jr. 2000. Climbing to the top: a personal memoir of Australopithecus afarensis. Evolutionary Anthropology 9:113–133.']
  • ['Stern, Jack T., Jr., and Robert L. Susman. 1983. Locomotor anatomy of Australopithecus afarensis. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 60:279–317.']
  • ['Steudel, Karen, and Jeanne Beattie. 1993. Scaling of cursoriality in mammals. Journal of Morphology 217:55–63.']
  • ['Steudel-Numbers, Karen L. 2006. Energetics in Homo erectus and other early hominins: the consequences of increased lower-limb length. Journal of Human Evolution 51:445–453.']
  • ['Steudel-Numbers, Karen L., and Michael J. Tilkens. 2004. The effect of lower limb length on the energetic cost of locomotion: implications for fossil hominins. Journal of Human Evolution 47:95–109.']
  • ['Steudel-Numbers, Karen L., Timothy D. Weaver, and Cara M. Wall-Scheffler. 2007. The evolution of human running: effects of changes in lower-limb length on locomotor economy. Journal of Human Evolution 53:191–196.']
  • ['Taylor, C. Richard, Norman C. Heglund, and Geoffrey M. O. Maloiy. 1982. Energetics and mechanics of terrestrial locomotion. 1. Metabolic energy consumption as a function of speed and body size in birds and mammals. Journal of Experimental Biology 97:1–21.']
  • ['Tilkens, Michael J., Cara Wall-Scheffler, Timothy D. Weaver, and Karen Steudel-Numbers. 2007. The effects of body proportions on thermoregulation: an experimental assessment of Allen’s rule. Journal of Human Evolution 53:286–291.']
  • ['Tuttle, Russel H., David M. Webb, and Michael Baksh. 1991. Laetoli toes and Australopithecus afarensis. Human Evolution 6:193–200.']
  • ['Walker, Alan. 1993. Perspectives on the Nariokotome discovery. In The Nariokotome Homo erectus skeleton. Alan Walker and Richard Leakey, eds. Pp. 411–432. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.']
  • ['Wang, Weijie, Robin H. Crompton, Tanya S. Carey, Michael M. Günther, Yu Li, Russell Savage, and William I. Sellers. 2004. Comparison of inverse-dynamics musculo-skeletal models of A.L. 288-1 Australopithecus afarensis and KNM-WT 15000 Homo ergaster to modern humans, with implications for the evolution of bipedalism. Journal of Human Evolution 47:453–478.']
  • ['Ward, Carol V. 2002. Interpreting the posture and locomotion of Australopithecus afarensis: where do we stand? Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 35:185–215.']
  • ['Ward, Carol V., William H. Kimbel, and Don C. Johanson. 2011. Complete fourth metatarsal and arches of the foot of Australopithecus afarensis. Science 331:750–753.']
  • ['Weaver, Timothy D. 2009. The meaning of Neandertal skeletal morphology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 106:16028–16033.']
  • ['Weaver, Timothy D., and Karen L. Steudel-Numbers. 2005. Does climate or mobility explain the differences in body proportions between Neandertals and their Upper Paleolithic successors? Evolutionary Anthropology 14:218–223.']
  • ['Weibel, Ewald R., Leonardo D. Bacigalupe, Beat Schmitt, and Hans Hoppeler. 2004. Allometric scaling of maximal metabolic rate in mammals: muscle aerobic capacity as determinant factor. Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology 140:115–132.']
  • ['Wells, Jonathan C. K., and Jay T. Stock. 2007. The biology of the colonizing ape. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 50:191–222.']
  • ['Weyand, Peter G., and J. Adam Davis. 2005. Running performance has a structural basis. Journal of Experimental Biology 208:2625–2631.']
  • ['Wood, Bernard, and Mark Collard. 1999. The human genus. Science 284:65–71.']
  • ['Wrangham, Richard. 2009. Catching fire: how cooking made us human. New York: Basic.']
  • ['Wrangham, Richard W., James Holland Jones, Greg Laden, David Pilbeam, and NancyLou Conklin-Brittain. 1999. The raw and the stolen: cooking and the ecology of human origins. Current Anthropology 40:567–594.']

Supplements