Monday, February 27, 2006

News in Science: hominid ancestors lived as prey

Preyed Upon, Hominids Began to Cooperate

Dan Ferber (Science)

“Our hominid ancestors actually lived as prey rather than predators, a researcher argued at the AAAS annual meeting, held in St. Louis from 16 to 20 February. And our past as prey, he speculates, laid the foundations of society by forcing those ancestors to live together peacefully in groups. Biological anthropologist Robert Sussman of Washington University contends that Australopithecus afarensis was stalked by numerous and large predators, including a now-extinct dog as big as a bear, saber-toothed tigers, hyenas, and crocodiles.” (Read more.)

Full story at

A somewhat related book, now on the new book shelf, is Frans de Waal's Our Inner Ape. "While the parallels between chimp brutality and human brutality are easy to see, de Waal suggests that the conciliatory bonobo is just as legitimate a model to sudy when we explore our primate heritage. He even connects humanity's desire for fairness and its morality with primate behavior, offering a view of society that contrasts markedly with the caricature some people have of Darwinian evolution." Our Inner Ape: a Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are. Riverhead Books, 2005.

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