The Top Ten Deadliest Animals of Our Evolutionary Past
While humorous in several places, this article is nonetheless a sobering reminder of how common violent death was for our ancestors. Not a particularly pleasant thought, but perhaps it partly explains our (seemingly) barely diminished propensity to react violently to threats, whether real or perceived. Especially when you consider that our biological evolution can’t keep pace with our cultural & technological (sociocultural?) evolution. (Help me out here with the terminology, researchok!)
But back to the article. Gawd, can you imagine a huge eagle-like bird swooping down and snatching your toddler?? Or having to sleep up in a tree because there were no safe caves around and having to worry about a leopard jumping up and plucking you off your branch like so much ripe fruit? Heck, there are still humans that have to contend with being attacked and/or eaten.
Gah! Talk about primal fear. *shudder*
External ImageOne of the most famous hominid fossils is the skull of a 3-year-old child found in Taung, South Africa. The child lived about three million to two million years ago. The skull has holes punched into its eye sockets; they were made by the talons of a large bird akin to an African crowned eagle.
If you live in a developed country, odds are you are going to die of a heart attack, stroke, cancer or an accident. But it was not always this way. For most of our evolutionary history as primates, one of the most common causes of death, perhaps the most common cause, was, well, being eaten.
Starting with the first primates, which evolved about 65 million years ago, our ancestors were about the size of a monkey, if not smaller. Larger apes evolved about 13 million years ago, eventually producing today’s gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos and us. Hominids, including our direct ancestors, split from chimps and bonobos about seven million years ago, and our own species, Homo sapiens, is only about 200,000 years old. Evidence of our historic fates comes from knowing what eats monkeys or apes today, and from studying what ate now-extinct species. For example, many of the best fossils of hominids come from piles of bones near places where predators ate lunch.
Here then are ten of the animals likely to have killed our ancient and not so ancient kin. The fact that you are alive means your direct ancestors escaped these fates, if not forever then at least long enough to reproduce.
1. Lions and tigers and leopards, oh #$*@!