Accurate Overhand Throwing

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True   Likely   Speculative
Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
Absolute Difference
Human Universality: 
Individual Universal (All Individuals Everywhere)
MOCA Domain: 
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Humans have the ability to accurately throw overhand. They can throw with aim and precision and improve both with practice. Shoulder modifications associated with throwing are already present at 2 myr. In contrast, apes cannot throw accurately overhand. They can throw with great force, and can fling their objects without much precision or aim. The aiming of underhanded throwing can be accurate in apes.


Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Possible Appearance: 
6,000 thousand years ago
Probable Appearance (Lineage Separation Event): 
Definite Appearance: 
100 thousand years ago
Universality in Human Populations: 

 Populational variation in humeral retroversion

Mechanisms Responsible for the Difference: 

Carpal kinematics

Elbow flexion

Expansion of the anteroposterior (AP) dimension of the upper rib cage

Increased AP upper chest depth (measured as the ratio of the chord length of the second rib to humeral length) 

Increased humeral torsion and retroversion

Mechanical effects on epiphyseal growth

Mirror neurons

Orientation of the glenoid fossa



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  1. Elastic energy storage in the shoulder and the evolution of high-speed throwing in Homo., Roach, Neil T., Venkadesan Madhusudhan, Rainbow Michael J., and Lieberman Daniel E. , Nature, 2013 Jun 27, Volume 498, Issue 7455, p.483-6, (2013)
  2. Stone-throwing by Japanese macaques: form and functional aspects of a group-specific behavioral tradition., Leca, Jean-Baptiste, Nahallage Charmalie A. D., Gunst Noëlle, and Huffman Michael A. , J Hum Evol, 2008 Dec, Volume 55, Issue 6, p.989-98, (2008)
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  5. Mirror neurons responding to observation of actions made with tools in monkey ventral premotor cortex., Ferrari, Pier Francesco, Rozzi Stefano, and Fogassi Leonardo , J Cogn Neurosci, 2005 Feb, Volume 17, Issue 2, p.212-26, (2005)
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  7. The Unitary Hypothesis: A common neural circuitry for novel manipulations, language, plan- ahead, and throwing?, Calvin, W. H. , Tools, Language, and Cognition in Human Evolution, p.217-230, (1993)
  8. The throwing hypothesis and hominid origins, Knüsel, C. J. , Human Evolution, Volume 7, p.1–7, (1992)
  9. Subscapularis function in gibbons and chimpanzees: Implications for interpretation of humeral head torsion in hominoids, Larson, S. G. , American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 08/1988, Volume 76, Issue 4, p.449-462, (1988)
  10. Did throwing stones shape hominid brain evolution?, Calvin, William H. , Ethology and Sociobiology, Volume 3, p.115 - 124, (1982)