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 • 3 989

  • Laksh Taneja
    Laksh Taneja  3 hours back

    We are still the prey.. but of rich and powerful people

    • violetgirl1996
      violetgirl1996  11 hours back

      6:34 🐊

      • violetgirl1996
        violetgirl1996  11 hours back

        I'm eating chocolate while watching this and then I see this 5:00

        • Shawn John
          Shawn John  12 hours back

          Africa remains dangerous today

          • Erika Perez de Quito
            Erika Perez de Quito  14 hours back

            I like watching these type of videos, crazy to think our ancestors actually made it out through all that and now we’re here

            • Chris Ainsworth
              Chris Ainsworth  14 hours back

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

              • TheJaps2011
                TheJaps2011  20 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  20 hours back

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

                  • Stephen Guma
                    Stephen Guma  23 hours back

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

                    • Alonso Alcantar
                      Alonso Alcantar  23 hours back

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

                      • Bill Clinton
                        Bill Clinton  23 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  1 days 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  1 days 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  1 days back

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

                            • Infinit 0
                              Infinit 0  2 days back

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

                              • Joed Staaa
                                Joed Staaa  2 days back

                                Evolution is not real

                                • SonOfTheDawn515
                                  SonOfTheDawn515  17 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  2 days back

                                Play ark lol

                                • Sweet Serial Killer
                                  Sweet Serial Killer  2 days back

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

                                  • Chue Lor
                                    Chue Lor  2 days back

                                    Humans prey on humans anyways

                                    • Mac Chernac
                                      Mac Chernac  2 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  2 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  3 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  3 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  3 days back

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

                                                        • Dustin Tinsley
                                                          Dustin Tinsley  3 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  4 days back

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

                                                                      • SonOfTheDawn515
                                                                        SonOfTheDawn515  17 hours back

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

                                                                    • A Coleman
                                                                      A Coleman  4 days back

                                                                      didn't know andrew scheer ran a youtube channel

                                                                      • Alexander Brolin
                                                                        Alexander Brolin  4 days back

                                                                        We are still prey

                                                                        • jeff mcarthur
                                                                          jeff mcarthur  4 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  4 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  4 days back

                                                                              Humans are violent. Someone will be triggered by this.

                                                                            • Slam!
                                                                              Slam!  4 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  5 days back


                                                                                      • Daniel Polloman
                                                                                        Daniel Polloman  5 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