February's brutal chimpanzee attack, during which a pet chimp inflicted devastating injuries on a Connecticut woman, was a stark reminder that chimps are much stronger than humans—as much as four-times stronger, some researchers believe. But what is it that makes our closest primate cousins so much stronger than we are? One possible explanation is that great apes simply have more powerful muscles.
Indeed, biologists have uncovered differences in muscle architecture between chimpanzees and humans. But evolutionary biologist Alan Walker, a professor at Penn State University, thinks muscles may only be part of the story.
In an article published in the April issue of Current Anthropology, Walker argues that humans may lack the strength of chimps because our nervous systems exert more control over our muscles. Our fine motor control prevents great feats of strength, but allows us to perform delicate and uniquely human tasks. . . .
Thursday, April 9, 2009
How strong are we?
There has always been anecdotal evidence that under certain circumstances humans can perform fantastic feats of strength. I have long wondered whether this was true and, if so, how we might better tap into that strength. It was in that light that I read this news item, about scientists who think chimps are stronger than humans because our muscles are under tighter cerebral control: