As humans we often marvel at the natural abilities of animals, from the incredible ability of an octopus to change the colour and texture of its skin to the manta shrimp, which is equipped with special clubs that can punch so hard they briefly turn the surrounding water to temperatures as hot as the surface of the sun.
Nature documentaries are based around showcasing these incredible abilities of animals, but what I would like to explore is the amazing natural abilities of human beings.
This one is obvious, while some other animals such as dogs, dolphins , chimps and octopus can show impressive displays of cognition and problem solving there is still a massive gulf in the intellectual prowess of other animals in comparison to humans. Neuroscientists attribute this to overly large neocortex present in the brains of humans. What is interesting is that it seems our large brains evolved in a very short period of time (around 2 million years).
There are many contrasting theories speculating on the mechanisms for this evolving so fast but one thing is certain, our large brains gave us a massive advantage in surviving and thriving in the natural world.
Humans can out run horses, antelopes and in theory even cheetahs.
Before you start calling bullshit on me, what is important here is the distance.
In a short race humans kinda suck, however we will beat many animals over a long distance, we can do this because bipedal locomotion (walking on two legs) is much more efficient that four legged movement over long distances. Our physiology is also very good at controlling our temperature while running through sweating so we don’t over heat.
As long as the human can track the animal sufficiently (so it cant hide and elude capture) homo-sapiens will out run, exhaust and kill many different prey animals as seen in this clip.
The old saying “don’t take a knife to a gun fight” holds massive truth in combat and ultimately survival. A ranged attack is devastating to an opponent who is restricted to close combat weapons. Humans are awesome throwers due to our bipedal stance and the unique way our ligaments and tendons are attached (we are kind of like a walking rubber band).
None of the other great apes come close to our range ,power and accuracy. It is by this ability a 75 KG human can bring down a 3 tonne woolly mammoth (provided they have enough spears to throw).
Throwing may of also been an integral factor in how homo-sapiens killed off most of the Neanderthals (a rival species of human) as it is thought that their joints and cartilage where not suited for throwing spears and therefore where limited to close range attacks.
Humans are capable of making a vast array of sounds and no other animals comes close to this diverse sound making ability. Humans are so good at making sounds that we can even accurately mimic animal calls.
This obviously allowed us to create languages and communicate complex hunting strategies to each other.
No one is going to argue that the other great apes (gorillas, chimps and orang-outangs) are much stronger than humans, the reason for this is because humans traded their strength for fine motor skills and dexterity.
These fine motor skills allowed us to make and use tools, and combined with our intelligence and communication skills we started to manipulate our environment like no other species before us.
These five combined abilities lead us into the human dominated geological epoch named the anthropycyene and we are now at the point where we have become victims of our own success and we need to work globally to find a safe operating space for humanity.