Early humans may have been prey, not predators

Washington, Oct 13 (ANI): A new study from University of Minnesota suggests that our human ancestors were not hunters right from the beginning; in fact they were hunted by prehistoric beasts like hungry birds and carnivorous mammals.

The team discovered multiple de-fleshed, chomped and gnawed bones from the extinct primates, which lived 16 to 20 million years ago on Rusinga Island.

"I have observed multiple tooth pits and probable beak marks on these fossil primates, which are direct evidence for creodonts and raptors consuming these primates," Discovery News quoted researcher Kirsten Jenkins as saying.

Creodonts were ancient carnivorous mammals that filled a niche similar to that of modern carnivores, and the ones on the island were likely wolf-sized.

"Primatologists have observed large raptors taking monkeys from trees. When a raptor approaches a group of monkeys, those monkeys will make alarm calls to warn their group and attempt to retreat to lower branches. The primates on Rusinga had monkey-like postcrania and likely had very similar locomotor behaviour," Jenkins said.

Although uncertain about the impact these killings had on our ancestors, Jenkins said they "can affect behaviour, group structure, body size and ontogeny (the life cycle of a single organism)."

Robert Sussman, professor of physical anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis concluded, "Despite popular theories posed in research papers and popular literature, early man was not an aggressive killer. Our intelligence, cooperation and many other features we have as modern humans developed from our attempts to out-smart the predator."

The discovery was announced today at the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology's 70th Anniversary Meeting in Pittsburgh. (ANI)

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