. It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon. Would you rather run after tasteless wildberries or curl up with a book and fuzzy socks?
You might not have that option if your ancestors didn’t take a huge gamble with their food.
A new study published in Science on December reveals that early humans used a high-risk, high reward strategy to hunt for food. While they spent more energy hunting for food than their great-ape relatives, they brought home more nutritious meals that could be shared with their fellow humans. While food was being prepared, some could rest or take on other tasks.
” Hunting and gathering can be risky and inefficient but it has a high rate of return,” said Herman Pontzer (associate professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University). “We can share our food and, because we have so many calories before noon we can hang around each other in this space, a free space. “
Humans use a lot more energy that great apes. Our brains are large and can eat a lot of calories. We also live longer than other animals. Long pregnancies can produce huge babies. These babies depend on adults for their survival.
To find out how humans obtained this extra energy, a group of researchers led by Thomas Kraft, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara, and Pontzer compared the energy budgets of wild gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans with that of populations of Tanzanian hunter-gatherers (Hadza) and Bolivian forager-horticulturalists (Tsimane).
Hunter-gatherers and forager-horticulturalists both gather food from wild plants and animals, but the Tsimane also produce small-scale crops.
Food energy absorption and time spent on food are two factors that affect the Energy Budgets. The two main ways humans could maintain an energetically expensive lifestyle was to be efficient in finding food. Or they could use a lot more energy to get a lot of food quickly, which would reduce energy efficiency.
The researchers found that hunter-gatherers and forager-horticulturalists are inefficient, high-intensity foragers. They are like a pick-up truck that brings home a ton donuts. Although they consume more energy than other animals, the food they get is much healthier. They take risks to maximize their profits, rather than reduce their costs.