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Archives for February 2012

Super-predatory humans

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Matt Walker Matt Walker | 15:00 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

Humans fishing underwater

Humans soon learnt how to catch ever greater numbers of prey

Predators have roamed the planet for 500 million years. The earliest is thought to be some type of simple marine organism, a flatworm maybe or type of crustacean, perhaps a giant shrimp that feasted on ancient trilobites. Much later came the famous predatory dinosaurs such as T. rex, and later still large toothed mammals such as sabre toothed cats or modern wolves.

But one or two hundred thousand years ago, the world’s most powerful predator arrived.

Us.

We lacked big teeth or sharp claws, huge tentacles or venomous bites. But we had intelligence, and the guile to produce tools and artificial weapons. And as we became ever better hunters we started harvesting animals on a great scale.

We wiped out the passenger pigeon, the dodo, the great herds of North American bison. Last century we decimated great whale populations. Today the world’s fishing fleets routinely take more fish than scientists say is sustainable, leading to crashes in cod numbers for example, while people kill more large mammals in North America than all other causes put together.

But out of our mass consumption of the world’s fauna appears a curious conundrum.

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