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: cepnet.mobi/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 • 4 038

  • Ryo
    Ryo  2 hours back


    • Shane Ortega
      Shane Ortega  10 hours back

      The only way to evolve is to eat brains .. lol 😂 dolphins don’t have teeth 🦷 for nothing.. crunch the 🧠 out yum yum.. 😂

      • Prince James
        Prince James  15 hours back

        This guy has the body movements of a shy school girl.

        • Rebekah kissel
          Rebekah kissel  19 hours back

          That was a monkey not a child

          • Balaji Ponnusamy
            Balaji Ponnusamy  20 hours back

            Could be a croc, leopard or even giant bird were might be trying to eat us. Kill or get killed.

            • Shay Pewe
              Shay Pewe  21 hours back

              You ever been walking down the street and seen those birds looking at you funny?
              Now you know why.

              • 1000 subs with No videos challenge

                Intelligience always Beats size and strength in the animal kingdom. And if the intelligent one is really smart they will develop weapons to fight the bigger predator

                • aMulliganStew
                  aMulliganStew  24 hours back

                  Sweet dreams.

                  • elias dvtra
                    elias dvtra  1 days back

                    because some humans were killed by animals it doesn't mean we weren't hunters

                    • elias dvtra
                      elias dvtra  1 days back

                      and the out of africa theory is outdated

                  • GodComplexion
                    GodComplexion  1 days back

                    I'm gonna go out on what I consider to be a common sense limb here and say that, just like now, even way back then, we were both the hunters and the prey.

                    • manuel ramirez
                      manuel ramirez  1 days back

                      These videos are great.

                      • 98976h
                        98976h  1 days back

                        I am sick of evolution

                        • Patricia Gander
                          Patricia Gander  1 days back

                          I personally feel that man's wars where caused by FEAR and not (anger and aggression) and fear can be an extremely dangerous thing🤔which can then manifest itself into aggression and absolute savagery, with certain humans other than that some people just plain crazy

                          • Vožralej Školník
                            Vožralej Školník  1 days back

                            We were prey. And now we are Apex and every single thing is afraid of us. ZERO TO HERO

                          • Jerome bacha
                            Jerome bacha  2 days back

                            Ha jokes on you nature, now we're the ones screwing you.

                            • Knuckles la enchilada Lean mi descripción por favor

                              I find funny the image of an ape running from a giant bird, it's like something you would see on cartoon XD

                              • sangjeong kimcho
                                sangjeong kimcho  2 days back

                                I LOVE THAT 0:17
                                YOU CANNOT- NO BUT 100% SERIOUS-
                                YOU HAVE TO ADMIT THAT mongoloids WOULD HAVE TO BE A SUB-UMMM UMM WHAT'S THE UM-
                                LINEAR BRACKET (WHY I SAY 'SPECIES')

                                • William Topping
                                  William Topping  2 days back

                                  I don't know about anyone else, but I'm kinda proud of my skull collection in my trophy cabinet.
                                  Anyone got a problem with that, I'm sure I can find a spot for you.

                                  • Brian Brewster
                                    Brian Brewster  2 days back

                                    It's too damn bad man doesn't still have large numbers of formidable adversaries they hunt him down. Predation would be great at keeping numbers of a species, in particular, Homeo Erectus, in check. Also, by remaining the alpha species for so long, this allowed man to dominate Earth to such a wild extent he managed to entirely screw up this world, perhaps to the point of no return. Way to go humans!

                                    • DestyNova
                                      DestyNova  2 days back

                                      Humans were always prey, why do you think we pretty much killed off all the predators that are a threat to us. Why do you think Europe has no more big predators anymore.

                                      • Laksh Taneja
                                        Laksh Taneja  3 days back

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

                                        • violetgirl1996
                                          violetgirl1996  3 days back

                                          6:34 🐊

                                          • violetgirl1996
                                            violetgirl1996  3 days back

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

                                            • Shawn John
                                              Shawn John  3 days back

                                              Africa remains dangerous today

                                              • Erika Perez de Quito
                                                Erika Perez de Quito  3 days 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  3 days back

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

                                                  • TheJaps2011
                                                    TheJaps2011  3 days 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  3 days back

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

                                                      • Stephen Guma
                                                        Stephen Guma  3 days back

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

                                                        • Alonso Alcantar
                                                          Alonso Alcantar  3 days back

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

                                                          • Bill Clinton
                                                            Bill Clinton  3 days 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  4 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  4 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  4 days back

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

                                                                • Infinit 0
                                                                  Infinit 0  4 days back

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

                                                                • Joed Staaa
                                                                  Joed Staaa  4 days back

                                                                  Evolution is not real

                                                                  • Freedom Anderson
                                                                    Freedom Anderson  1 days back

                                                                    Evolution is observable.

                                                                  • SonOfTheDawn515
                                                                    SonOfTheDawn515  3 days 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  4 days back

                                                                  Play ark lol

                                                                  • Sweet Serial Killer
                                                                    Sweet Serial Killer  4 days back

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

                                                                    • Chue Lor
                                                                      Chue Lor  4 days back

                                                                      Humans prey on humans anyways

                                                                      • Mac Chernac
                                                                        Mac Chernac  4 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  4 days back

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

                                                                          • Akeem X
                                                                            Akeem X  5 days back

                                                                            I invented history

                                                                          • Daniel Dan
                                                                            Daniel Dan  5 days back

                                                                            And now you know why women like tall men.

                                                                            • SSakv
                                                                              SSakv  5 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  5 days back

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

                                                                                • Bruh
                                                                                  Bruh  5 days back

                                                                                  That’s why we’re good at running away

                                                                                  • Raccoon Kid
                                                                                    Raccoon Kid  5 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  5 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.