JUN 27, 2017 06:44 AM PDT

Are Chimpanzees Really As Strong As They're Made Out to Be?

Chimpanzees seem to have a reputation for having super-strength when compared to humans of similar size, but now a study is considering whether these claims are true and if any better explanations can be deduced from taking a closer look.

Chimpanzees have been revered as incredibly powerful beasts, but a new study reveals that those stories may have been exaggerated just a bit.

Image Credit: stefaanroelofs/Pixabay

The study, which has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that many these stories about chimpanzees’ super strength are most likely anecdotal.

By taking a closer look at chimpanzees’ muscle fibers, researchers saw only marginal improvements in power output when compared with comparable human muscle fibers.

Instead of being twice as strong or several times stronger, as many chimpanzee stories might have you believe, the researchers found that chimpanzee muscle fibers could only output approximately 1.35 times more power than comparably-sized human muscle fibers.

Notably, this difference wasn’t due to having superior muscle fibers either; instead, it was because chimpanzees simply had a higher diversity of muscle fibers than humans did, which marginally adds to their overall strength for better or for worse.

When it comes to muscle fibers, there are generally two different kinds: fast-twitch and slow-twitch. The former is responsible for short-term strength, while the latter is responsible for long-term endurance. Different mixtures of these fibers yield different strengths and endurances, each of which have their own unique purposes.

Chimpanzees seem to have some more short-twitch fibers than humans do, but testing revealed that their muscle fiber construction was overall consistent with most mammals, and so there was no reason to believe that the creatures were several folds stronger than humans. On the contrary, humans have more slow-twitch muscle fibers, which indicates that while chimpanzees are slightly stronger, humans are slightly more endurant.

Although 1.35 times is still considered “stronger,” it’s by a very small amount, and the data seems to discredit the many horror stories that have popped up over the past century that depict chimpanzees as having super-strength compared to humans.

“Contrary to some long-standing hypotheses, evolution has not altered the basic force, velocity or power-producing capabilities of skeletal muscle cells to induce the marked differences between chimpanzees and humans in walking, running, climbing and throwing capabilities,” the researchers note in their study.

“This is a significant, but previously untested assumption. Instead, natural selection appears to have altered more global characteristics of muscle tissue, such as muscle fiber type distributions and muscle fiber lengths.”

Now when you hear someone saying that chimpanzees can lift cars off the ground, you can refer them to this study and say they might be exaggerating just a little bit.

Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 07, 2018
JUL 07, 2018
Can Sending Plants to Space Reveal a Cancer Treatment?
When plants are grown in a totally different environment, it may stimulate new effects....
JUL 11, 2018
Plants & Animals
JUL 11, 2018
Salamanders May Fare Better Against Climate Change Than Initially Believed
Many of the world’s animals display some type of response to the hazardous effects imposed by climate change. In most cases, the response isn’t...
JUL 18, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
JUL 18, 2018
Light controls variants of active ingredient in cannabis
Chemists have synthesized several variants of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. The ability to alter its structure with light has led to a new tool f...
AUG 24, 2018
Earth & The Environment
AUG 24, 2018
Zookeeper tricks panda mama into caring for her twins
  These baby pandas are only 18 days old and the fact that they're both alive right now is likely only due to the ingenuity and dedication of this...
AUG 27, 2018
Plants & Animals
AUG 27, 2018
'Antennal-Grabbing' Courtship Behavior Observed in More Types of Cuckoo Bees
Most insect enthusiasts already know that antennal grabbing behavior is a somewhat common trait among Hymenoptera during copulation. But that doesn’t...
SEP 03, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 03, 2018
Two Newly-Discovered Dinosaurs May Explain a 70 Million-Year Evolutionary Gap
Dinosaur evolution is a hot topic in the scientific community because it can help us understand how and why modern animals came to be. Unfortunately, it&rs...
Loading Comments...