Saturday July 08, 2017
Chimps are stronger than you and here's why
more stories from this episode
- City birds use cigarette butts to ward off ticks
- Flying into the heart of a wildfire, for science
- Chimps are stronger than you and here's why
- Working night shifts may trigger cancer by hindering DNA repair
- Encore: This author tried to learn to sniff like a dog
- Why are there no stars in the Apollo moon landing pictures?
- Full Episode
It has always been assumed that chimps are much stronger than humans, despite the fact that on average they are smaller than us. A new study by Dr. Matthew O'Neill from The University of Arizona College of Medicine set out to find out exactly what gives chimps such super-strength.
Skeletal muscle fibres were sampled from three young male chimps and compared to those of humans. The big difference was found to be in the way those muscle fibres are distributed.
In chimps, one third of their muscles are slow twitch fibres and the other two thirds are made up of two types of fast twitch muscle fibres. Fast twitch muscle contracts more quickly and provides more force in quick bursts, but fatigues faster. This accounts for a chimp's ability to climb and jump rapidly over short distances.
- Why do chimps throw stones at trees?
- Why Chimps are Handy But Bonobos Aren't
- Chimps Share Thirst For Knowledge
On average, humans have 70 per cent slow twitch and 30 per cent fast twitch muscle fibre. This gives us greater endurance, but less strength in bursts.
Chimp muscle fibre was found to be 1.35 times more powerful that that of humans. It may be that humans traded strength for endurance when the lineages separated millions of years ago, giving us the ability to travel farther to find food.
Paper in the journal PNAS: Chimpanzee super strength and human skeletal muscle evolution