Mailbag: Humans are predators

Re: Shellfish

I have been following your weblog for a while and just read your weblog on shellfish diet of early hominines. Interesting. I have a little question that you hopefully may be prepared to answer: Anthropologists describe our ancestors often as hunters and gatherers. You do that too in your blog. Actually, you do that quite often. It is obviously a valid paradigm. Humans are often further characterized as Predators which I consider a strange term for primates. Well, I see an abundance of evidence including your blog entry above that contradicts this characterization. I do not see much evidence that supports it. Actually, I do not know of any supporting evidence at all. The commonly named observations, scratched bones and hunting chimps, only verify that some bones have been scratched (by humans or natural processes?) and that chimps can spend their lives successfully as hunters as long as scientists with Doctors cases stand nearby to help them survive the risks of otherwise deadly infections. I saw that the diet question is your topic as a scientist. So, you may have strong evidence?

I wonder if this is a confusion of language? A predator is an animal that kills and eats other animals. Any hunter is by definition a predator.

That does not preclude other means of subsistence or other trophic relationships with different species. Humans were predators from at least 2.5 million years ago, but they were also prey animals of lions, sabretooths and hyenas for most of that time.

I see your reference to chimpanzee hunting. Chimpanzees hunt in every population where they have been observed in the wild, and new field sites have invariably found them already hunting. There is no need for doctors among them. Many primates are predators, it is not strange at all. Small nocturnal primates obtain most of their caloric requirements from predation of insects and other small animals.