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Scientific report: Humans are better at baseball than chimps because evolution

A report Wednesday from the scientific journal Nature argues that one of the greatest human achievements, brought about through years of evolution is the ability to throw objects accurately and powerfully -- far more accurately and powerfully than our primate ancestors.

The report, a study of the throwing motions of 16 college baseball players, directly links modern pitching techniques to early human hunting methods.

The idea is that early humans needed an efficient way of killing prey, and picking up a rock and throwing it at a fleeing animal happened to be one of the best methods. So, over time, humans developed muscles and tendons that made this action even more efficient.

Baseball players thus owe a great debt to the development of what Nature refers to as the "arm-cocking" mechanism. This mechanism -- or the effectiveness of it, at least -- is not the same among other primates:

Adult male chimpanzees can throw objects at speeds of around 30 kilometres per hour, but even a 12-year-old human can pitch a baseball three times faster than that, [the author] notes. In fact, the quickest motion that the human body produces - rotation of the humerus, the long bone in the upper arm, at a rate that is briefly equivalent to 25 full rotations in a single second - occurs while a person is throwing a projectile.

So, how 'bout that? Humans make good baseball players because our food once ran faster than we could. Who knew?

-- Dakota Gardner / MLB.com