When Humans Were Prey

  • Published on: 08 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: https://252mya.com/gallery/julio-lacerda

    Produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios: http://youtube.com/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.
  • Runtime : 9:52
  • dinosaurs dinos paleo paleontology scishow eons pbs pbs digital studios hank green john green complexly fossils natural history Taung South Africa juvenile hominin Taung Child australopithecines predators prey skull Australopithecus Paranthropus robustus Raymond Dart chimpanzees Neanderthal Homo habilis Leakey Olduvai Gorge Tanzania hyena leopard cave anthropology


  • StopFear
    StopFear   1 days ago

    Well, how do I put it. Being hunted and killed by a large strong animal is one of the best ways to lose a life. You at least know it wasn’t out of anger, and you know you’d not have been able to defend yourself on your own, but you still have some chance. I’d always pick some big cat since they are supposedly quick killer.

  • Shinku Toner
    Shinku Toner   1 days ago

    So suicided to the back of the head with 2 stones.. The Arkansinoid Clintonian

  • lil poitato
    lil poitato   2 days ago

    Humans are still prey.We just have guns.

  • Cuntmobile 69
    Cuntmobile 69   4 days ago

    So we couldn’t have had any success hunting in groups at the time?

  • Oof Oof
    Oof Oof   5 days ago

    Animals see humans as food Humans pull out a uno reverse card

  • Alex Kieu
    Alex Kieu   5 days ago

    This right here is what you should be watching on YouTube. Part of the meaning of life right here, who you are is a product of your ancestors! You can go back thousands of generations, I just hope we can definitively break down the evolution of the human. Because my family is from Vietnam, if we started from South Africa how in the world did we end up in Vietnam basically the other corner of the world.

  • Sea dreams
    Sea dreams   6 days ago

    Humans will always be prey, especially to sick or stranded carnivores.

  • Andrew Armstrong
    Andrew Armstrong   1 weeks ago

    If anyone still believes this, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn...

  • Guillermo ANG2003
    Guillermo ANG2003   1 weeks ago

    Me parece bien el avance del ser humano. Durante mucho tiempo hemos sido presas de varios animales, y ahora somos sus dioses; podemos dominarlos y controlarlos como queramos, usar a sus crías para lo que queramos y tomar sus terrenos (porque a decir verdad, ellos eran más fuertes que nosotros y siempre terminábamos mal ante ellos, y se siente satisfactorio el poder dominar a seres más grandes que uno mismo). Venganza evolutiva, solamente nos faltaría poder controlar el clima, la fusión nuclear, la modificación genética y avances en computación cuántica para poder volvernos dioses y devolverles todo el daño que los animales nos han causado por miles de años; nosotros solamente llevamos como mil-dos mil años de venganza, asi que me parece justo lo que se está haciendo actualmente 😎😎😎😎😎👊👊👊👊👊👊👊👊👊

  • Lava Stingray
    Lava Stingray   1 weeks ago

    I didnt know PBS was an atheist channel that denied the creation of humanity 🤔. Thank the Almighty i aint one of their theorized monkeys 😂😂😂😂😂

  • shin qqing
    shin qqing   1 weeks ago

    Oh no wonder that people are always thinking how to use the victim card. Being the victim is in our blood and legacy.

  • kutis bayag
    kutis bayag   1 weeks ago

    It's just a theory. No strong evidence.Big birds have been extinct now because of us human,because human is the top predator of the food chain. This is not a theory!

  • Miunu Gaming
    Miunu Gaming   1 weeks ago

    Wasnt a poor baby ancestor of us was killed by a giant eagle?!Stabbed in the 2 eye sockets and stabbed in the brain,with its poor brian eaten alive!?

  • Elite
    Elite   1 weeks ago

    Bunch of nonsense.

  • Lampoonism
    Lampoonism   1 weeks ago

    The only big cats that consider me prey are the cougars down at the dive bar

  • Phillip Honeysett
    Phillip Honeysett   2 weeks ago

    Split that's brain no skull n logic that's say n tongue n fossils r wats species not humanity being n walk mankind no ape n fang off n U f O f&_$#@_ run n that's extinct distinct or wiped left n gone n all evolve takes a tribe n clan to bring down the disband n collect that's head

  • Annonimoose Q
    Annonimoose Q   2 weeks ago

    5:48 look out SK54, there’s a leopard behind you! Oh no he can’t hear us he has AirPods in!

  • Thanos Killa
    Thanos Killa   2 weeks ago

    I wanna go back in time and show those animals who’s boss with my M1 ABRAMS

  • Fredrick Miller
    Fredrick Miller   2 weeks ago

    I'll tell you right now that nobody in my ancestry was preyed on by a damn bird. Not ever.

  • Aleada Siragusa
    Aleada Siragusa   2 weeks ago

    It does not take an anthropologist to let us know that hominides were prey - go deep into the woods and realize you still may be just that - no duh!

    NLTDB3S   2 weeks ago

    Thought provoking 🐵🤔🙏🏻🌴🐕🔥

  • Cheyenne
    Cheyenne   2 weeks ago

    if only they could have drove us to extinction

  • Saibow
    Saibow   2 weeks ago

    Humans used to get their heads crushed under giant talons, and people still complain about how humans kill animals. Ironic.

  • Julius Abuan
    Julius Abuan   2 weeks ago

    Group of Taung:*ScreamsGiant Predatory Bird:*Screams Louder

  • captindo
    captindo   2 weeks ago

    And we did it, we succeeded and survived, but at what cost?

  • Ĺaura Ķamis
    Ĺaura Ķamis   2 weeks ago

    We're still prey only the predators are different government corporations and the scavengers that follow them

  • austin jacques
    austin jacques   2 weeks ago

    What a terrifying death your skull crushed through your eye sockets

  • aaron grisham
    aaron grisham   2 weeks ago

    Where we are in evolution is an unexplainable scene. We can not evolve from original apes, but we are rather hybrids. Our brains and development is exponentially greater than every other animal.

  • Fritz
    Fritz   2 weeks ago

    We are still preys.

  • I'm meme lol
    I'm meme lol   2 weeks ago

    Random person : gets eatenAnother Random person : 5th one today

  • Donald Belobraydic
    Donald Belobraydic   2 weeks ago

    I always liked climbing trees and throwing rocks when I was younger. I even enjoy a good cave. Now I know why.

  • Ste Shar
    Ste Shar   2 weeks ago

    I couldn't finish my home work cause I was being chased by a bird all night. I swear!! Ask my mom