Language, technology, culture, a big brain: these are the known differences between humans and other apes. Scientists are now adding a new difference: the body of Homo sapiens uses water much more efficiently. This difference may have played a major role in human evolution.
The human body needs 30 to 50 percent less water than other primates. This is clear from the first study that compared the amount of water people and a number of other species of monkeys use and refill each day. In total, scientists examined 352 people – from farmers and hunter-gatherers to office workers – and 72 different species of monkeys.
If you reduce all the moisture a person absorbs in a day with the amount of sweat and urine that comes out again, an average person consumes about three liters of water per day. Chimpanzees and gorillas are soon on the double. This is quite remarkable, when you realize that humans sweat a lot more than other apes and are also more active throughout the day. But the results leave no other conclusion open. The study is appeared in current biology.
The difference in humidity consumption may have played a major role in the development of our species. After all, if you can go without water for a long time, you don’t have to stay near rivers, lakes, or springs all the time. You will then be able to discover new areas, which can be very suitable for hunting or gathering.
Even if you can do without a little more water, explains lead researcher Herman Pontzer, it must have been a big advantage for our ancestors who were trying to build a life in the dry savannas.
Less thirsty or an excellent nose?
The next step for scientists now is to find out how this more efficient use of water came about. People may gradually become less thirsty. Human babies also drink about a quarter less milk than baby monkeys.
But the shape of the nose can also play a role. Unlike the flat noses of monkeys, our protruding noses help cool and condense water (vapor) in the air. This seems to allow us to conserve more water with each breath.
Young scientist Eugène Dubois discovered the missing link between monkeys and humans at the end of the 19th century. About NPO Kennis you see how this great discovery in evolutionary biology was forgotten.
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