Ancient hunter-gatherers may have equated running skills with reproductive potential.
A good breeding partner
Among humans' hunter-gatherer ancestors, males who were good distance runners may have been more desirable to females, a new study suggests.
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"The observation that endurance running ability is connected to reproductive potential in men suggests that women in our hunter-gatherer past were able to observe running as a signal for a good breeding partner," study lead author Dr. Danny Longman, from the University of Cambridge in England, said in a university news release.
The researchers found that people who were exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb are better long-distance runners. This association was found in both genders, but was particularly strong in men, according to the study published in the journal PLoS One.
Previous research has shown that exposure to higher levels of testosterone in the womb provide men with other evolutionary advantages such as strong sex drive, high sperm count, cardiovascular efficiency and spatial awareness, the study authors added.
In hunter-gatherers, good distance running ability in men may have been seen as a sign of good genetics by females, the researchers suggested. Also, good distance runners were more likely to be successful hunters and better providers.
"It was thought that a better hunter would have got more meat, and had a healthier – and larger – family as a consequence of providing more meat for his family. But hunter-gatherers may have used egalitarian systems with equal meat distribution as we see in remaining tribes today," Longman explained in the news release.
That means that having more meat might not be a big factor. But, "the ability to get meat would signal underlying traits of athletic endurance, as well as intelligence – to track and outwit prey – and generosity – to contribute to tribal society. All traits you want passed on to your children," he said.
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- University of Cambridge, news release, April 8, 2015
Image: Runners from Shutterstock