The Straits Times
Published on Dec 20, 2012

Fists came first for hand evolution, scientists suggest


PARIS (AFP) - Biologists say the human hand is a wonder of evolution, providing dexterity that lets our species perform activities as diverse as bricklaying, writing, ice hockey and brain surgery.

But what were the forces that, over thousands of years, sculpted our hand into the shape it is today? Was it to grab and use primitive tools, as many experts surmise? To pick fruit and berries? Now a new concept has risen: It was also to create a fist, so that we could fight other humans.

"The role aggression has played in our evolution has not been adequately appreciated," said Mr David Carrier, a University of Utah professor who is promoting the novel theory with colleague Michael Morgan.

"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." In a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the pair say their theory is backed by models and experiments in biomechanics.