When Humans Were Prey

  • Published: 09 January 2019
  • Not too long ago, our early human ancestors were under constant threat of attack from predators. And it turns out that this difficult chapter in our history may be responsible for the adaptations that allowed us to become so successful.

    Thanks to Julio Lacerda and Studio 252mya for the illustrations of the Taung Child. You can find more of Julio's work here: 252mya.com/gallery/julio-lacerda

    Produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios: office-2016.info/user/pbsdigitalstudios

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    Berger, L. R. (2006). Brief communication: Predatory bird damage to the Taung type-skull of Australopithecus africanus Dart 1925. American Journal of Physical Anthropology: The Official Publication of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, 131(2), 166-168.
    Berger, L. R., & Clarke, R. J. (1995). Eagle involvement in accumulation of the Taung child fauna. Journal of Human Evolution, 29(3), 275-299.
    Berger, L. R., & McGraw, W. S. (2007). Further evidence for eagle predation of, and feeding damage on, the Taung child. South African Journal of Science, 103(11-12), 496-498.
    Blumenschine, R. J., Stanistreet, I. G., Njau, J. K., Bamford, M. K., Masao, F. T., Albert, R. M., ... & Fernández-Jalvo, Y. (2012). Environments and hominin activities across the FLK Peninsula during Zinjanthropus times (1.84 Ma), Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution, 63(2), 364-383.
    Brain, C. K. (1970). New finds at the Swartkrans australopithecine site. Nature, 225(5238), 1112.
    Brain, C. K. (1983). The hunters or the hunted?: an introduction to African cave taphonomy. University of Chicago Press.
    Bunn, H. T. (1991). A taphonomic perspective on the archaeology of human origins. Annual Review of Anthropology, 20(1), 433-467.
    Dart, R. A. (1949). The predatory implemental technique of Australopithecus. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 7(1), 1-38.
    Dart, R. A. (1953). The predatory transition from ape to man. Brill.
    Dart, R. A. (1958). The Minimal Bone-Breccia Content of Makapansgat and the Australopithecine Predatory Habit. American Anthropologist, 60(5), 923-931.
    Hart, D. (2018). Man the hunted: Primates, predators, and human evolution. Routledge.
    Hart, D., & Sussman, R. W. (2011). The influence of predation on primate and early human evolution: impetus for cooperation. In Origins of Altruism and Cooperation (pp. 19-40). Springer, New York, NY.
    Njau, J. K., & Blumenschine, R. J. (2006). A diagnosis of crocodile feeding traces on larger mammal bone, with fossil examples from the Plio-Pleistocene Olduvai Basin, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution, 50(2), 142-162.
    Njau, J. K., & Blumenschine, R. J. (2012). Crocodylian and mammalian carnivore feeding traces on hominid fossils from FLK 22 and FLK NN 3, Plio-Pleistocene, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Journal of human evolution, 63(2), 408-417.
    Pickering, T. R., Schick, K. D., & Toth, N. P. (Eds.). (2007). Breathing life into fossils: taphonomic studies in honor of CK (Bob) Brain. Gosport, IN: Stone Age Institute Press.
    Tobias, P. V. (1990). When and by whom was the Taung skull discovered. Para conocer al hombre: homenaje a Santiago Genovése. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autonoma da Mexico, 207-213.
    Washburn, S. L. (1957). Australopithecines: the hunters or the hunted?. American Anthropologist, 59(4), 612-614.
    Zuberbühler, K., & Jenny, D. (2002). Leopard predation and primate evolution. Journal of Human Evolution, 43(6), 873-886.
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Comments • 3 977

  • Chris Ainsworth
    Chris Ainsworth  14 minutes back

    So the slaughter of practically every other species of animals is just payback?

    • TheJaps2011
      TheJaps2011  6 hours back

      I discovered this channel by pure chance and i´m hooked. my inner nerd is so freacking happy, keep up the great work!

      • 50 Shades of Geek
        50 Shades of Geek  7 hours back

        And that's why I'm NEVER sorry for eating birds!!!

        • Stephen Guma
          Stephen Guma  9 hours back

          Humans: We need your help-
          Chimps: Nah you straight

          • Alonso Alcantar
            Alonso Alcantar  9 hours back

            Imagine how hard it was for them to walk on 2's because they have no butt muscles.

            • Bill Clinton
              Bill Clinton  10 hours back

              The only thing surprising about any of this is how long it took the "experts" to figure any of this out. It doesn't take a PhD in anthropology or paleontology to know that humans are potential prey of carnivores, even up to the present day. I am pretty sure if I stuck my toes into crocodile infested waters, I'd end up missing a lot more than just my toes. The only thing I learned from this video is how bias has influenced past researchers and undoubtedly does so today. In other words, to paraphrase this video's presenter, we are always products of what ever is going on around us—even if we don't realize it.

              • Patricia Arnedo
                Patricia Arnedo  19 hours back

                I am confused as to why the anthropologists wouldn't consider that the hominids were prey. I would be prey today if I was in front of a lion or other such large apex predator.

                • Jimmy Biggs
                  Jimmy Biggs  20 hours back

                  Humans do not come from apes!!! Those beings were the product of fallen angels! They live on mars to this day and other planets. Giants still live these days. They avoid humans because they are predators!

                • Very Weird
                  Very Weird  22 hours back

                  Thousands of years ago: 🦁>😫
                  Today: 🦁🔥🔫😎

                  • Infinit 0
                    Infinit 0  1 days back

                    I don't know who you all early people were, but my people have always been human.

                    • Joed Staaa
                      Joed Staaa  1 days back

                      Evolution is not real

                      • SonOfTheDawn515
                        SonOfTheDawn515  3 hours back

                        Have you looked into the mirror lately? You could play the part of the "missing link" in a blockbuster movie with minimal makeup.

                    • ew filthy
                      ew filthy  1 days back

                      Play ark lol

                      • Sweet Serial Killer
                        Sweet Serial Killer  1 days back

                        Imagine we used to run from big cats and now we're on top!
                        Lions are just losers!

                        • Chue Lor
                          Chue Lor  1 days back

                          Humans prey on humans anyways

                          • Mac Chernac
                            Mac Chernac  1 days back

                            Early Hominids were most likely pack scavengers first out of need because of the forests receding and savanna expanding.
                            They became more upright to adapt to the savanna and started using tools to break open bones to eat marrow before they started to hunt.
                            The only major populations that ever switched to a predominantly meat based diet were the inhabitants of the Eurasian steppes, the ancestors of modern day Europeans and Mongols.

                            • Tshepo Masiea
                              Tshepo Masiea  1 days back

                              Were we a staple or a dessert though? Were we organic and free range?

                              • Akeem X
                                Akeem X  2 days back

                                I invented history

                                • Daniel Dan
                                  Daniel Dan  2 days back

                                  And now you know why women like tall men.

                                  • SSakv
                                    SSakv  2 days back

                                    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12132-altruistic-chimps-act-for-the-benefit-of-others/ but in the documentaries about the Ngogo there's also ample evidence, as well as for planning and communication, where those with the blue eyed iris mutation have an extreme advantage over those with dark featureless eyes, however they're obviously disadvantaged at ambushing and other activities where highly reflective and easy to spot eyes that easily indicate where the animals looks at has disadvantages
                                    but great video anyway
                                    and about the Ngogo, sometimes they might help, other times they might be wary and on bad days a war might start but chimps helping animals who are not chimps and humans probably has even a lot more examples, be it from captivity or observation, they're not that different from us at certain development stages

                                    • SSakv
                                      SSakv  2 days back

                                      Took a Washburn to get through all the anthroposophic crust from earlier works.

                                      • Bruh
                                        Bruh  2 days back

                                        That’s why we’re good at running away

                                        • Raccoon Kid
                                          Raccoon Kid  2 days back

                                          Seems paleontologist assume things till another one assumes something else, all this data will also be coned in 80 years

                                          • speedgoat 88
                                            speedgoat 88  2 days back

                                            I love this channel! But I find that this video is simply going from black to white. An eagle will also prey on a wolf but it does not mean that the wolf isn't a crazy predator. Everything is a prey even a lion to a large group of hyenas. What you meant to say might be that we were not as high on the food chain as previously thought But then again, I don't think we ever thought ourselves as the top before the use of fire and tools.

                                            • Justyna V
                                              Justyna V  2 days back

                                              but what was the quarry workers name tho lol. Give the dude credit where its due

                                              • Dustin Tinsley
                                                Dustin Tinsley  2 days back

                                                Being a hunter and being hunted are not mutually exclusive modern humans are still prayed upon by large animals like bears and big cats. Dismissing the possibility that these early hominids could have also been Hunters is bad science

                                                • Dr. Starbuck Capt. Galactic Federation

                                                  Like now?!!! Hahahaha. Get them off me... c'mon dragon!!!

                                                  • Mango Fango
                                                    Mango Fango  3 days back

                                                    That's a pretty good underdog story.

                                                    • Marcos Siqueira
                                                      Marcos Siqueira  3 days back

                                                      Lol o think we should be more careful about that violence stuff you said that our evolution was shaped by violence, once we can distinguish and have consciousness of what we do, the mere violence have to be taken away (just for security)

                                                      • Marcos Siqueira
                                                        Marcos Siqueira  3 days back

                                                        Do you guys think that there are relation between the domination of agriculture and the fast human society development, more than the evidences shown in the video?
                                                        Pleaaase answer me

                                                        • Donna Josett
                                                          Donna Josett  3 days back

                                                          Its like every predatorial animal that hunted us long ago, shrunk.

                                                          • Destaphenes
                                                            Destaphenes  3 days back

                                                            Humans....smart. But...take away our tools and language and we are weak prey.

                                                            • SonOfTheDawn515
                                                              SonOfTheDawn515  3 hours back

                                                              Take a lion's strength and teeth away and it's weak prey. What's your point?

                                                          • A Coleman
                                                            A Coleman  3 days back

                                                            didn't know andrew scheer ran a youtube channel

                                                            • Alexander Brolin
                                                              Alexander Brolin  3 days back

                                                              We are still prey

                                                              • jeff mcarthur
                                                                jeff mcarthur  3 days back

                                                                why do we only find bones animals have eaten ...where are the rest of our ancestors buried??? they weren't all dinner

                                                                • RozitaVideo
                                                                  RozitaVideo  3 days back

                                                                  Considering how we’ve created islands of plastic in our oceans, landfills full of crap that will take hundreds of years to biodegrade, and radioactive waste, and all the species we’ve killed off, I am betting that the animals wish they did a better job of preying on us.

                                                                  • fuxluck1
                                                                    fuxluck1  3 days back

                                                                    Humans are violent. Someone will be triggered by this.

                                                                  • Slam!
                                                                    Slam!  3 days back

                                                                    Humans are still prey in the Jungles of Panama.

                                                                    • Communism
                                                                      Communism  4 days back

                                                                      Ngl I think the only reason we're still around today is bc of our brains and how're able to think , even the dumbest of us can survive too so like

                                                                      • Poulomi Hari
                                                                        Poulomi Hari  4 days back

                                                                        The time when we used to be bird-food. Woah... Amazing transformation of humanity.

                                                                        • Sam {Insert lenny face that has bulbous eyes}

                                                                          Lewis Leakey huh? Wasn’t that name referenced in the Big Bang theory?

                                                                          • Davi Chaves
                                                                            Davi Chaves  4 days back


                                                                            • Daniel Polloman
                                                                              Daniel Polloman  4 days back

                                                                              As always, amazing video. Thank you so much for spreading knowledge. You guys Rock! I have a question: How can I get in contact with you, guys? The more I research and the more I read the more confused I get about something and I think you guys are the best option to answer that question. Is there an email or something?

                                                                              • ᗪᗩᑎIEᗯᗩᔕᕼEᖇE

                                                                                Haha suckers now y’all going extinct

                                                                                • EvilErrorYT
                                                                                  EvilErrorYT  4 days back

                                                                                  *Top 10 anime characters from weakest to op*

                                                                                  • hoorayimhelping
                                                                                    hoorayimhelping  4 days back

                                                                                    becoming large, smart, and powerful over a few million years just to give a big evolutionary middle finger to the animals that used to eat us is the most human thing ever.

                                                                                    • Hera Hagstoz
                                                                                      Hera Hagstoz  5 days back

                                                                                      So much of archaeology and anthropology was colored and introduced by a very select group of individuals who were themselves influenced by their times and cultures, namely a Western European male elite class. These ideas went unchallenged and accepted as canon up until women and men of a more open minded and scientific time got the nerve to challenge them. It is essential to ask questions and use common sense when trying to understand how prehistoric people and ancient hominids behaved. So much sexism and racism exists in accepted theory and it takes fresh eyes and bravery and dedication to undo these corrupted assumptions.

                                                                                      • lilstarks1116
                                                                                        lilstarks1116  6 days back

                                                                                        You guys do realize this is all just based off a line of guessing.... lol that skull could have just been a few hundred years old

                                                                                      • engabu449
                                                                                        engabu449  6 days back

                                                                                        When humans were monkeys. Wow. Why didn't they stay as monkeys. Or donkeys didn't become humans or the other way round. Or tree's turn into birds, or birds into bees

                                                                                        • SonOfTheDawn515
                                                                                          SonOfTheDawn515  3 hours back

                                                                                          @rent a shill Some people don't grasp evolution.

                                                                                        • rent a shill
                                                                                          rent a shill  1 days back

                                                                                          we are still apes
                                                                                          just hairless apes that can talk