Compared with apes, humans have shorter palms and fingers and longer, stronger flexible thumbs. Experts have long assumed these features evolved to help our ancestors make and use tools. But new evidence from the US suggests it was not just dexterity that shaped the human hand, but violence also.
Hands largely evolved through natural selection to form a punching fist, it is claimed. ”The role aggression has played in our evolution has not been adequately appreciated,” said Professor David Carrier, from the University of Utah.
”There are people who do not like this idea but it is clear that compared with other mammals, great apes are a relatively aggressive group with lots of fighting and violence, and that includes us. We’re the poster children for violence.”
The forces of natural selection that drove hands to become nimble-fingered also turned them into weapons, Prof Carrier believes.
”Individuals who could strike with a clenched fish could hit harder without injuring themselves, so they were better able to fight for mates and thus be more likely to reproduce,” he said.
”If a fist posture does provide a performance advantage for punching, the proportions of our hands also may have evolved in response to selection for fighting ability, in addition to selection for dexterity.”