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


  • James Suhr
    James Suhr   5 hours ago

    Have you heard of Harpegornis spiecies.

  • C.C. ORR
    C.C. ORR   23 hours ago

    You reading thisAre my prey

  • Anthony Vitera
    Anthony Vitera   1 days ago

    Reward centers when we work together....riiiight.

  • Dave Johnson
    Dave Johnson   1 days ago

    Legend has it the first Maori in New Zealand were terrified of the Haast Eagle which was believed capable of preying on humans. This would have been around 1350 onwards. Huge Berwickshire pigs were known to hunt and kill people in medieval Scotland , compelling the local laird to send out hunting parties from time to time .

  • Praxy Yeah
    Praxy Yeah   2 days ago

    Maybe that’s how we got negative emotions like anger. Imagine seeing your love one turned into snack by a big predator. Either they get scared or get angry and want to take revenge.

  • Claire Mangan
    Claire Mangan   2 days ago

    This man speaks so quickly he should consider a career in rap music.

  • Ashlyn M
    Ashlyn M   3 days ago

    this kid was killed by a bird of pray me, (looks slowly at my chickens)

  • Devix
    Devix   4 days ago

    It's interesting how the instinctive (or almost instinctive) fear of being attacked by birds like eagles still persists to this day. Look up countless videos of people scared of their baby being taken by an eagle for example.

  • yooseon hwang
    yooseon hwang   4 days ago

    They spend years digging up those skulls and have no time to thoroughly look at it? I don't understand

  • Mr.J Glokta
    Mr.J Glokta   6 days ago

    The megalomaniac arrogance by humans to think that other animals wouldn't hunt us if given the chance is insane. Of course they would just like we did and still are doing. We are not superior, just afraid enough to develop ever more brutal ways to kills others, all in the name of "safety"Rant over... for now

  • L M
    L M   1 weeks ago

    Haven't you heard, that bird is the word. A bird, bird, bird........

  • ash
    ash   1 weeks ago

    so where did this giant predator bird go? Did our ancestors kill all of them?

  • NonNobisSolum
    NonNobisSolum   1 weeks ago

    Lol. Silly humans, deluding ourselves into believing that there was a time when we "were" (note past tense) prey. Hate to break it to ya, folks, but we still are prey. Just prey with tools (eg weapons, medicine) and social/group behavior adaptations to mitigate against becoming prey on an hour to hour basis.

  • Dozerson2
    Dozerson2   1 weeks ago

    So ancient people were hunted by: crocs, hyaenas, leopards, and giant eagles?

  • Marsupilami
    Marsupilami   1 weeks ago

    Considering that humans became the dominant specie of the planet, we are successfull.

  • Khyrid
    Khyrid   1 weeks ago

    We could have been always killing each other and then animals dragged our carcasses away also.

  • Oliver Price
    Oliver Price   1 weeks ago

    When I went to Africa I saw a hiena bite into an African mans arm there was deep punctured wounds on him but he stamped on the thing and killed it 😂

  • Caio Henrique
    Caio Henrique   1 weeks ago

    6:14 my homie there looking like a GTA character like, look at that pose

  • Ash Cooper
    Ash Cooper   1 weeks ago

    Awaiting vegan defence argument? Oh what's that.. Bird got your tongue ?

  • Junior Watson
    Junior Watson   1 weeks ago

    This was fun and entertaining to think about...But, NOT educational in the least!

  • Mi-cool F*ck-off
    Mi-cool F*ck-off   1 weeks ago

    Don't get it too twisted.... If we go n2 there ecosystem..... We become the prey.

  • christian paulo pelandas

    Basically they are not humans Yet we are the evolution of them so we are not prey or humans are not prey but the past ancerstors are the preys. LoL

  • Klaus Toth
    Klaus Toth   1 weeks ago

    ".... our evolution deeply shaped by violence.... " -- well, this is no surprise

  • Hugh Mann
    Hugh Mann   2 weeks ago

    science: the mastery of ignorance. Someone should tell him that evolution is a theory. i blocked this crap.. why am i still seeing it?

  • Spiderific!
    Spiderific!   2 weeks ago

    Hmm.. Interesting. I'm gonna keep an extra eye on my parrots I think. Lol

  • Sabastian Love
    Sabastian Love   2 weeks ago

    Empathy? Chimps? Maybe not in captivity, but they do in the wild... HOWEVER: Bonobos show empathy and give aid even in captivity.

  • SubversiveMemes
    SubversiveMemes   2 weeks ago

    Australopithecus was more similar to an ape, than a modern human. Even before modern humans existed, species like Homo Erectus used spears and built fires, which would scare off most other carnivores. Early humans had advanced shelters, torches, and ranged weapons like bows. Our early ancestors were once prey, but humans were always a predatory species.

  • The Blue Gamer
    The Blue Gamer   2 weeks ago

    Prey: eats humansHumans evolveHumans eats modern preys that killed them beforeHumans:Mision complete:Respect+