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


  • ll_ Syrxs _ll
    ll_ Syrxs _ll   9 hours ago

    Our ancestors were getting jumped from every animal alive

  • DeepWinter
    DeepWinter   11 hours ago

    Reminder that we have literally 0 empirical evidence for macroevolution.

  • Dean Wilson
    Dean Wilson   1 days ago

    Idk if you could control how humans change physically throughout evolution a mili years from now, unless someone with a time machine reads this comment and comes back from the future 2 minutes after I'm done writing this comment....

  • Dean Wilson
    Dean Wilson   1 days ago

    When humans hunted other humans for food

  • Bradley Mark
    Bradley Mark   1 days ago

    what if the skull was damaged after carion swooped in and picked it apart after it died ?

  • Banc Andrei Dan
    Banc Andrei Dan   1 days ago

    HUGE MISLEAD FROM THIS VIDEO. I DON'T belive anything this guys say here

  • Dushawn Powell
    Dushawn Powell   2 days ago

    I’m watching this with my pet bird , she needs to know why she’s in a cage

  • smnltuen 1
    smnltuen 1   2 days ago

    Editor kept bringing up the image of the Taung child that I can only imagine a giant bird stabbing it in the face with its beak

  • Chris Pacman
    Chris Pacman   4 days ago

    My ancestors: hunts and fight against hyenas, lions and giant eagles Me: scared of a flying cockroach 😕

  • Kaleb.lindsay Jlindsay

    It’s like saying narwhals evolved from whales simply because they lookalike and have Similar characters

  • Isaak van Daalen
    Isaak van Daalen   5 days ago

    I've heard that the reason why Dragons show such a widespread appearance in many ancient cultures around the world, is because a dragon is a combination of the three things that traditionally hunted humans.Big cats, Snakes, and Birds of Prey.

  • Ariel Manzanares-Scisney

    I've been listening a lot to survivalists and active hunters who still get their meat from the wild instead of a grocery store discuss what they've learned away from civilization. It's really interesting how today survivalists carry weapons and ammunition just as much to hunt food (especially in the tundra and areas without edible plants), as they do to protect themselves from being attacked by hungry or aggressive predators . Large bears, canines and felines are still more than happy to eat humans if given the chance and necessity, even though they usually avoid humans, since more often than that humans are the ones eating them. Thank you opposable thumbs. 👍

  • SoloAdvocate
    SoloAdvocate   5 days ago

    You could still argue that inter-homo violence selected for certain tribes/groups at the same time as well as the ability to provide through hunting/gathering ability, etc. The answer to our evolutionary past contains both of these factors and many more of course. I felt like the video leaned more towards an over-correction.

  • HyPa _
    HyPa _   6 days ago

    1:37 looks like rust

  • Wait Me
    Wait Me   1 weeks ago

    Title "When humans were prey"Video about something confusing.

  • The Science Man
    The Science Man   1 weeks ago

    It’s sad that we came all this way just to turn into a bunch of sentient selfish douchbags. We destroy our own environment and planet, make hundreds of species go extinct a year, and can’t even get along w8th our own species. It’s came to the point where we hunt animals so much that they have to evolve without tusks or horns. Our planet is slowly dying and we have had millions of our own species die in wars. When you really think about it, you realize just how pathetic, selfish, dumb, evil, and weak humans really are. And 5r7st me when I say that if humans go extinct, this planet will thrive like never before.

  • Bader Hakami
    Bader Hakami   1 weeks ago

    But if you think of it, there are some animals that still prey on humans to this day. Some Tigers and other wild animals include us on there menu.

  • jason lu
    jason lu   1 weeks ago

    I'm so glad humans invented the machine gun. Mother Nature was like oh you been getting eaten by dire wolves and saber tooth tigers, lets make your brain large so you can invent the gun and be the most feared and deadliest predator that ever existed.

  • The Crystal Eye
    The Crystal Eye   1 weeks ago

    have you read 'animal languages' by Eva Meijer? you should because the bit about human v animal speech (8:05) is a bit outdated

  • Terence Kreft
    Terence Kreft   1 weeks ago

    It really pisses me off when people who should know better imply that evolution is directed.We did not acquire new attributes to better survive, we acquired new attributes which made us better at surviving. It's a different concept.

  • Dqueen11
    Dqueen11   1 weeks ago

    Two words : fire control.That was a huge evolutionary key. Pointy sticks and Co-op are not enough. Most predators ruled the nights, with the fire we took away that advantage from them, along other things that came after learning how to use it.

    BAD BOY   1 weeks ago

    Me:being scared of my House cat My ancestor who probably hunted down saber toothed tigers with a pointy stick:𝐏𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐜

  • 333 peacher
    333 peacher   1 weeks ago

    I think playing @0.7x speed is best for this narrator.

  • Davizito PA
    Davizito PA   1 weeks ago

    Humans are still prey in places where there are tigers, jaguars (not so much in this case, but some jaguars do actively and systematically hunt humans), alligators and crocodiles.

  • Austin Haynie
    Austin Haynie   1 weeks ago

    Predators back in the day: eats humanHuman’s evolutionary response: “kill or be killed.”Human’s today: “I think we went a little overboard.”

  • alex
    alex   1 weeks ago

    Shout out to rocks and bipedalism... stopped us from being eaten so much

  • Trash
    Trash   2 weeks ago

    You still are

  • kingmoremixman
    kingmoremixman   2 weeks ago

    So in the end you don’t know jon snow , just speculations and in the end its a monkey skull

  • angelo cacchione
    angelo cacchione   2 weeks ago

    Things have only gotten worse , now humans kill humans, and have of the time it's Legal !? The world is nuts and so are it's disconnected leaders :(

    RICK WINNER MASABO   2 weeks ago

    early humans: If only animals would die.present animals: If only people would people would diepresent humans : hahahaha now you see what we are capable of

  • Torm Decinal
    Torm Decinal   2 weeks ago

    Predators are being Maneaters in cenozoic past