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J Hum Evol. 2011 Aug;61(2):169-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.02.012. Epub 2011 Apr 12.

Thermoregulation and endurance running in extinct hominins: Wheeler's models revisited.

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University of Glasgow, UK.


Thermoregulation is often cited as a potentially important influence on the evolution of hominins, thanks to a highly influential series of papers in the Journal of Human Evolution in the 1980s and 1990s by Peter Wheeler. These papers developed quantitative modeling of heat balance between different potential hominins and their environment. Here, we return to these models, update them in line with new developments and measurements in animal thermal biology, and modify them to represent a running hominin rather than the stationary form considered previously. In particular, we use our modified Wheeler model to investigate thermoregulatory aspects of the evolution of endurance running ability. Our model suggests that for endurance running to be possible, a hominin would need locomotive efficiency, sweating rates, and areas of hairless skin similar to modern humans. We argue that these restrictions suggest that endurance running may have been possible (from a thermoregulatory viewpoint) for Homo erectus, but is unlikely for any earlier hominins.

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