#Fine Arts, Illustration

Evolved to Exercise

Editorial Illustration 

Humans Evolved to Exercise by Herman Pontzer

January 12, 2019

Materials: ink nib, chinese ink, watercolor brush.

This illustration was really fun to make :) There was something new to learn, every step of the way. If you’re curious, I extensively documented my process and inspirations here on my old site.


This article was from Scientific American, "Humans Evolved to Exercise" by Herman Pontzer.  It centers around how we humans require high levels of physical activity to maintain our metabolism, whereas apes — our closest living relatives — get to laze around without health consequences.

Why is this? How can evolution be so unjust? The answer is: diet. Ape ancestors subsisted on plants, an abundant and stationary food source. Early humans, however, began to hunt for meat, requiring regular movement and high levels of physical activity. Natural selection did its thing, and our limbs, our metabolisms — even our brains — evolved to adapt to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

One thing that fascinated me was how much teeth can reveal about a species. Large, thick-enameled molars meant that Australopithecus (early humans) diets likely relied on harder and more fibrous foods. Loss of large, sharp canines in Australopithecus males also indicated changes in social behavior (the meat diet required cooperation and sharing).

This tidbit about teeth brought to mind another piece I read, which said many of today’s orthodontic problems teeth — overcrowding, misalignment, etcetera — are due to changes in jaw structure that occured in the transition from hunting to farming. Agricultural foods were softer, and as a result, jaws grew thinner with each generation.

A cool reminder that we are still in the midst of evolution!

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