The first humans travelling on ice: An energy-saving strategy?
Formenti F., Minetti AE.
Economy of locomotion is a constant challenge for animals, particularly when related to migrations and travelling. The present study focuses on human locomotion and particularly on the development of ice skating. The aim of our research was to understand whether an environmental feature such as a strong presence of lakes (frozen in winter) could force humans to develop ice skates in order to limit the energy cost of travelling. We hypothesized that the energy-saving principle was a determinant factor in the development of human locomotion on ice. Five healthy adult participants took part in the experiments, during which we recorded the speed (1.2 ± 0.3 m s-1) and metabolic energy cost (4.6 ± 0.9 J kg-1 m-1) associated with travelling on bone skates. Simulations were also performed to demonstrate whether the benefit given by the use of skates was different in the areas where ice skating appears to have evolved originally. The gain reachable by using bone skates could lead to an extremely high energy saving (equal to 10% of the energy needed to survive during the cold season) and differs significantly between the regions considered in the present study. An analysis of the geometrical shape of lakes associated with fractal analysis of their distribution suggests that, in order to better adapt to the severe conditions imposed by the long lasting winters, Finnish populations could benefit more than others from developing this ingenious locomotion tool. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London.