The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Humans, the high-energy ape: hominoid energetics and life history evolution


1Department of Anthropology, Hunter College, CUNY, 2NYCEP, New York Consortium for Evolutionary Primatology, 3Lester Fisher Center for the Study & Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo, 4Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Rhode Island

March 26, 2015 8:45, Grand Ballroom D Add to calendar

Humans have the largest brains, longest day ranges, and fastest reproduction among the living hominoids. Here we compare total energy expenditure, TEE, reported for a broad range of human populations and to new measurements of TEE and activity in zoo and sanctuary populations of chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans to test the hypothesis that humans’ unique metabolic demands are met through an evolved increase in energy throughput. TEE was measured using the doubly-labeled water method, and physical activity was measured using focal follows. Multivariate analyses of TEE controlling for fat free mass and activity level indicate substantial metabolic diversity among hominoids, with humans having greater TEE than other apes. Physical activity had a limited, non-linear effect on TEE in both humans and apes, with diminishing effects at higher levels of activity. Instead, non-exercise physiological activity appears to play an important and underappreciated role in determining daily energy requirements, both within and between species. These results challenge longstanding reconstructions of human life history and brain evolution and suggest a new framework for investigating evolved energy requirements and metabolic health in humans and other apes.

Supported by the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, and L.S.B. Leakey Foundation