On the adaptive significance of energetic efficiency

William R. Leonard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Models of energetic efficiency have been widely used by ecological anthropologists to study human subsistence patterns. This paper explicitly tests an hypothesis posed by Smith (1979) about energy utilization in the highland community of Nunoa, Peru. Smith's hypothesis is largely confirmed, as greater energy availability is associated with increased caloric consumption and improved measures of health and well-being among the wealthier sectors of this population. However, an energetics model does not provide a full understanding of the behavior and biology of this population. Interacting social/economic and environmental forces impose different constraints on different sectors of this population. These differences are in turn reflected in variation in adaptive strategies and in biological well-being. Future work in human ecology will benefit from (1) attention to the interaction of ecological and socio-economic forces, (2) greater appreciation of intra-populational variation in adaptive strategies, and (3) explicit linking of variation in adaptive strategies to differences in human biological parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-470
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1989


  • anthropometries
  • energetic efficiency
  • food stress
  • human adaptation
  • nutritional status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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