Hunting hypothesis

In paleoanthropology, the hunting hypothesis is the hypothesis that human evolution was primarily influenced by the activity of hunting for relatively large and fast animals, and that the activity of hunting distinguished human ancestors from other hominins.

While it is undisputed that early humans were hunters, the importance of this fact for the final steps in the emergence of the genus Homo out of earlier australopithecines, with its bipedalism and production of stone tools (from about 2.5 million years ago), and eventually also control of fire (from about 1.5 million years ago), is emphasized in the "hunting hypothesis", and de-emphasized in scenarios that stress the omnivore status of humans as their recipe for success, and social interaction, including mating behaviour as essential in the emergence of language and culture.

Advocates of the hunting hypothesis tend to believe that tool use and toolmaking essential to effective hunting were an extremely important part of human evolution, and trace the origin of language and religion to a hunting context.

As societal evidence David Buss cites that modern tribal population deploy hunting as their primary way of acquiring food.[1] The Aka pygmies in the Central African Republic spend 56% of their quest for nourishment hunting, 27% gathering, and 17% processing food. Additionally, the !Kung in Botswana retain 40% of their calories from hunting and this percentage varies from 20% to 90% depending on the season.[2] For physical evidence Buss first looks to the guts of humans and apes. The human gut consists mainly of the small intestines, which are responsible for the rapid breakdown of proteins and absorption of nutrients. The ape’s gut is primarily colon, which indicates a vegetarian diet. This structural difference supports the hunting hypothesis in being an evolutionary branching point between modern humans and modern primates. Buss also cites human teeth in that fossilized human teeth have a thin enamel coating with very little heavy wear and tear that would result from a plant diet. The absence of thick enamel also indicates that historically humans have maintained a meat-heavy diet.[2] Buss notes that the bones of animals human ancestors killed found at Olduvai Gorge have cut marks at strategic points on the bones that indicate tool usage and provide evidence for ancestral butchers.[2]


Sexual division of labor (evolutionary perspective)

According to the hunting hypothesis, women are preoccupied with pregnancy and dependent children and so do not hunt because it is dangerous and less profitable. Gijsbert Stoet highlights the fact that men are more competent in throwing skills, focused attention, and spatial abilities. (Experiments 1 and 2).[3] Another possible explanation for women gathering is their inherent prioritization of rearing offspring, which is difficult to uphold if women were hunting.[3]

Provisioning hypothesis

Parental investment

Buss purports that the hunting hypothesis explains the high level of human male parental investment in offspring as compared to primates. Meat is an economical and condensed food resource in that it can be brought home to feed the young, however it is not efficient to carry low-calorie food across great distances. Thus, the act of hunting and the required transportation of the kill in order to feed offspring is a reasonable explanation for human male provisioning.[2]

Male coalitions

Buss suggests that the Hunting hypothesis also explains the advent of strong male coalitions. Although chimpanzees form male-male coalitions, they tend to be temporary and opportunistic. Contrastingly, large game hunters require consistent and coordinated cooperation to succeed in large game hunting. Thus male coalitions were the result of working together to succeed in providing meat for the hunters themselves and their families.[2] Kristen Hawkes suggests further that obtaining resources intended for community consumption increases a male’s fitness by appealing to the male’s society and thus being in the good favor of both males and females. The male relationship would improve hunting success and create alliances for future conflict and the female relationship would improve direct reproductive success.[2] Buss proposes alternate explanations of emergence of the strong male coalitions. He suggests that male coalitions may have been the result of group-on-group aggression, defense, and in-group political alliances. This explanation does not support the relationship between male coalitions and hunting.[2]

Hawkes proposes that hunters pursue large game and divide the kill across the group. Hunters compete to divvy up the kill to signal courage, power, generosity, prosocial intent, and dedication. By engaging in these activities, hunters receive reproductive benefits and respect.[4] These reproductive benefits lead to greater reproductive success in more skilled hunters.[4] Evidence of these hunting goals that do not only benefit the families of the hunters are in the Ache and Hadza men. Hawkes notes that their hunting techniques are less efficient than alternative methods and are energetically costly, but the men place more importance on displaying their bravery, power, and prosocial intent than on hunting efficiency. This method is different as compared to other societies where hunters retain the control of their kills and signal their intent of sharing. This alternate method aligns with the coalition support hypothesis, in efforts to create and preserve political associations.[4]

Reciprocal altruism

The meat from successful large game hunts are more than what a single hunter can consume. Further, hunting success varies by week. One week a hunter may succeed in hunting large game and the next may return with no meat. In this situation Buss suggests that there are low costs to giving away meat that cannot be eaten by the individual hunter on his own and large benefits from the expectation of the returned favor in a week where his hunting is not successful.[2] Hawkes calls this sharing “tolerated theft” and purports that the benefits of reciprocal altruism stem from the result that families will experience “lower daily variation and higher daily average” in their resources.[5]

Provisioning may actually be a form of sexual competition between males for females.[6] Hawkes suggests that male provisioning is a particularly human behavior, which forges the nuclear family.[5] The structure of familial provisioning determines a form of resource distribution. However, Hawkes does acknowledge inconsistencies across societies and contexts such as the fluctuating time courses dedicated to hunting and gathering, which are not directly correlated with return rates, the fact that nutrition value is often chosen over caloric count, and the fact that meat is a more widely spread resource than other resources.[5]

The show-off hypothesis

The show-off hypothesis is the concept that more successful men have better mate options. The idea relates back to the fact that meat, the result of hunting expeditions, is a distinct resource in that it comes in large quantities that more often than not the hunter’s own family is not able to consume in a timely manner so that the meat doesn’t go sour.[2] Also the success of hunting is unpredictable whereas berries and fruits, unless there is a drought or a bad bush, are fairly consistent in seasonality. Kristen Hawkes argues that women favor neighbors opting for men who provide the advantageous, yet infrequent meat feasts.[5] These women may profit from alliance and the resulting feasts, especially in times of shortage. Hawkes suggests that it would be beneficial for women to reward men who employ the “show-off strategy” by supporting them in a dispute, caring for their offspring, or providing sexual favors.[5] The benefits women may gain from their alignment lie in favored treatment of the offspring spawned by the show-off from neighbors.[5] Buss echoes and cites Hawke’s thoughts on the show-off’s benefits in sexual access, increased likelihood of having children, and the favorable treatment his children would receive from the other members of the society.[2] Hawkes also suggests that show-offs are more likely to live in large groups and thus be less susceptible to predators.[5] Show-offs gain more benefits from just sharing with their family (classical fitness) in the potential favorable treatment from the community and reciprocal altruism from other members of the community.[5]

Hawkes uses the Ache people of Paraguay as evidence for the Show-off hypothesis. Food acquired by men was more widely distributed across the community and inconsistent resources that came in large quantities when acquired were also more widely shared.[5]

While this is represented in the Ache according to Hawkes, Buss notes that this trend is contradicted in the Hadza who evenly distribute the meat across all members of their population and whose hunters have very little control over the distribution. In the Hadza the show-off hypothesis does not have to do with the resources that result from hunting, but from the prestige and risk that is involved in big game hunting. There are possible circuitous benefits such as protection and defense.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Buss, David (1999). Evolutionary Psychology: The new Science of the Mind. New York: Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Buss, David M. Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011. Print. 80
  3. ^ a b Stoet, Gisbert (2011). "Sex Differences in Search and Gathering Skills". Evolution and Human Behavior. 32 (6): 416–22. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2011.03.001.
  4. ^ a b c Nolin, David A (2010). "Food-Sharing Networks in Lamalera, Indonesia". Human Nature. 21 (3): 243–68. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2011.11.003. PMC 3398706.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hawkes, Kristen (1991). "Showing Off Tests of an Hypothesis About Men's Foraging Goals". Ethology and Sociobiology. 12 (1): 29–54. doi:10.1016/0162-3095(91)90011-E.
  6. ^ Larsen, Clark S. "Early Hominid Origins and Evolution: The Roots of Humanity." Chapter 10:. W.W. Norton & Company, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <>
  • Buss, David M. Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011.
  • Larsen, Clark S. "Early Hominid Origins and Evolution: The Roots of Humanity." Chapter 10:. W.W. Norton & Company [1]

External links

African Genesis

African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man, usually referred to as African Genesis, is a 1961 nonfiction work by Robert Ardrey. It posited the hypothesis that man evolved on the African continent from carnivorous, predatory ancestors who distinguished themselves from apes by the use of weapons. The work bears on questions of human origins, human nature, and human uniqueness. It has been widely read and continues to inspire significant controversy.African Genesis is the first in Robert Ardrey's Nature of Man Series. It is followed by The Territorial Imperative (1966), The Social Contract (1970), and The Hunting Hypothesis (1976). It was illustrated by Ardrey's wife, the South African actress and illustrator Berdine Ardrey (née Grunewald).

Control of fire by early humans

The control of fire by early humans was a turning point in the cultural aspect of human evolution. Fire provided a source of warmth, protection, improvement on hunting and a method for cooking food. These cultural advancements allowed for human geographic dispersal, cultural innovations, and changes to diet and behavior. Additionally, creating fire allowed the expansion of human activity to proceed into the dark and colder hours of the evening.

Claims for the earliest definitive evidence of control of fire by a member of Homo range from 1.7 to 0.2 million years ago (Mya). Evidence for the controlled use of fire by Homo erectus, beginning some 1,000,000 years ago, has wide scholarly support. Flint blades burned in fires roughly 300,000 years ago were found near fossils of early but not entirely modern Homo sapiens in Morocco. Evidence of widespread control of fire by anatomically modern humans dates to approximately 125,000 years ago.

Gathering hypothesis

The gathering hypothesis is a term in evolutionary psychology coined in 1970s feminism as the antithesis of "hunting hypothesis", suggesting that gathering rather than hunting was the main factor in the emergence of anatomically modern humans.

David Buss argues that tools were not used for hunting initially, but instead to dig up and gather plants. It is possible the invention of tools explains the transition from a forest habitat to the savanna woodlands and grasslands. Tools made gathering food easier and more economical enabling ancestral humans to live in a sparser environment. It was not until the invention of receptacles to store food that more elaborate tools used to hunt, skin, and butcher were developed. According to the gathering hypothesis hunting had no major role in the evolution of modern humans.One of the sources of evidence for the gathering hypothesis is in the alleged “Superior Spatial Memory of Women.” McBurney et al. found that women perform better on memory tasks than males whereas men perform better on rotation tasks. Hawkes furthers the argument for the gathering hypothesis in that women obtain larger fitness benefits by tending to their offspring, thus they provision, because it is simpler to coordinate gathering and offspring care. The "Superior Spatial Memory of Women" has been supported through more recent studies by Neave et al. in which females were both quicker and made few mistakes in gathering and identifying specific plants than their male counterparts.However, the gathering hypothesis cannot account for sexual division of labor in men hunting and women gathering, high parental investment of human males, male coalition psychology, why humans live in environments without plant resources, human gut structure versus primate gut structure, reciprocal alliances (alliance theory), and why women share food.

Homo Necans

Homo Necans: the Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth (German: Homo Necans: Interpretationen Altgriechischer Opferriten und Mythen) is a 1972 book on ancient Greek religion and mythology by Walter Burkert. It won the Weaver Award for Scholarly Literature, awarded by the Ingersoll Foundation, in 1992.


Hunting is the practice of killing or trapping animals, or pursuing or tracking them with the intent of doing so. Hunting wildlife or feral animals is most commonly done by humans for food, recreation, to remove predators that can be dangerous to humans or domestic animals, or for trade. Lawful hunting is distinguished from poaching, which is the illegal killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species. The species that are hunted are referred to as game or prey and are usually mammals and birds.

Hunting arose in Homo erectus or earlier, on the order of millions of years ago. Hunting is deeply embedded in human culture. Hunting an animal for its meat can also be seen as a more natural way to obtain animal protein since regulated hunting does not cause the same environmental issues as raising domestic animals for meat, especially on factory farms.

Hunting can also be a means of pest control. Hunting advocates state that hunting can be a necessary component of modern wildlife management, for example, to help maintain a population of healthy animals within an environment's ecological carrying capacity when natural checks such as predators are absent or very rare. However, excessive hunting has also heavily contributed to the endangerment, extirpation and extinction of many animals.The pursuit, capture and release, or capture for food of fish is called fishing, which is not commonly categorised as a form of hunting. It is also not considered hunting to pursue animals without intent to kill them, as in wildlife photography, birdwatching, or scientific research activities which involve tranquilizing or tagging of animals or birds. The practice of foraging or gathering materials from plants and mushrooms is also considered separate from hunting.

Skillful tracking and acquisition of an elusive target has caused the word hunt to be used in the vernacular as a metaphor, as in treasure hunting, "bargain hunting", and even "hunting down" corruption and waste.

Some animal rights activists argue that hunting is cruel, unnecessary, and unethical.

Hunting magic

Hunting magic is the magic associated with hunting in hunter-gatherer cultures, both contemporary and prehistoric.

Walter Burkert in Homo Necans (1972) suggested that rituals associated with hunting magic are at the origin of religion.

Henri Breuil interpreted the paleolithic cave paintings as hunting magic, meant to increase the number of animals.

Killer ape theory

The killer ape theory or killer ape hypothesis is the theory that war and interpersonal aggression was the driving force behind human evolution. It was originated by Raymond Dart in the 1950s; later it was developed further in African Genesis by Robert Ardrey in 1961.According to the theory, the ancestors of humans were distinguished from other primate species by their greater aggressiveness and this aggression remains within humanity, which retains many murderous instincts.

The theory gained notoriety for suggesting that the urge to do violence was a fundamental part of human psychology. The hunting hypothesis is often associated with the theory, because of similarities and because Robert Ardrey has developed both.

Nature of Man Series

The Nature of Man Series is a four-volume series of works in paleoanthropology by the prolific playwright, screenwriter, and science writer Robert Ardrey. The books in the series were published between 1961 and 1976.

The series majorly undermined standing assumptions in social sciences, leading to an abandonment of the "blank slate" hypothesis; incited a renaissance in the science of ethology; and led to widespread popular interest in human evolution and human origins.

The first work, African Genesis (1961), particularly helped revive interest in ethology, and was a direct precursor to the Konrad Lorenz's On Aggression (1966), Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape (1967), Lionel Tiger's Men in Groups (1969), and Tiger and Robin Fox's The Imperial Animal (1971). The director of the Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program Rick Potts, cited Ardrey's work as inspiring him to go anthropology.The works were wildly popular and influenced the public imagination. Stanley Kubrick cited them as major influences in developing his films 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971).

On Aggression

On Aggression (German: Das sogenannte Böse zur Naturgeschichte der Aggression, "So-called Evil: on the natural history of aggression") is a 1963 book by the ethologist Konrad Lorenz; it was translated into English in 1966. As he writes in the prologue, "the subject of this book is aggression, that is to say the fighting instinct in beast and man which is directed against members of the same species." (Page 3)

The book was reviewed many times, both positively and negatively, by biologists, anthropologists, psychoanalysts and others. Much criticism was directed at Lorenz's extension of his findings on non-human animals to humans.

Outline of prehistoric technology

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to prehistoric technology.

Prehistoric technology – technology that predates recorded history. History is the study of the past using written records; it is also the record itself. Anything prior to the first written accounts of history is prehistoric (meaning "before history"), including earlier technologies. About 2.5 million years before writing was developed, technology began with the earliest hominids who used stone tools, which they may have used to start fires, hunt, cut food, and bury their dead.

Paul S. Martin

Paul S. Martin (born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1928 - died in Tucson, Arizona September 13, 2010) was an American geoscientist at the University of Arizona who developed the theory that the Pleistocene extinction of large mammals worldwide was caused by overhunting by humans. Martin's work bridged the fields of ecology, anthropology, geosciences, and paleontology.

In 1953, Martin received his bachelor's degree in zoology from Cornell University. In 1953 and 1956 he completed his master's and doctorate programs at the University of Michigan and then proceeded with postdoctoral research at the Yale University and the University of Montreal. He joined the faculty of the University of Arizona in 1957 and worked there until his retirement in 1989. A case of polio, contracted while doing undergraduate field work in Mexico, forced Martin to rely on a cane, which restricted but did not end his field work.

Quaternary extinction event

The Quaternary period (from 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present) saw the extinctions of numerous predominantly megafaunal species, which resulted in a collapse in faunal density and diversity and the extinction of key ecological strata across the globe. The most prominent event in the Late Pleistocene is differentiated from previous Quaternary pulse extinctions by the widespread absence of ecological succession to replace these extinct species, and the regime shift of previously established faunal relationships and habitats as a consequence.

The earliest casualties were incurred at 130,000 BCE (the start of the Late Pleistocene). However, the great majority of extinctions in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas occurred during the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene epoch (13,000 BCE to 8,000 BCE). This extinction wave did not stop at the end of the Pleistocene, continuing, especially on isolated islands, in human-caused extinctions, although there is debate as to whether these should be considered separate events or part of the same event.Among the main causes hypothesized by paleontologists are overkill by the widespread appearance of humans and natural climate change. A notable modern human presence first appeared during the Middle Pleistocene in Africa, and started to establish continuous, permanent populations in Eurasia and Australasia from 120,000 BCE and 63,000 BCE respectively, and the Americas from 22,000 BCE.A variant of the former possibility is the second-order predation hypothesis, which focuses more on the indirect damage caused by overcompetition with nonhuman predators. Recent studies have tended to favor the human-overkill theory.

Robert Ardrey

Robert Ardrey (October 16, 1908 – January 14, 1980) was an American playwright, screenwriter and science writer perhaps best known for The Territorial Imperative (1966). After a Broadway and Hollywood career, he returned to his academic training in anthropology and the behavioral sciences in the 1950s.As a playwright and screenwriter Ardrey received many accolades. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1937, won the inaugural Sidney Howard Memorial Award in 1940, and in 1966 received an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay for his script for Khartoum. His most famous play, Thunder Rock, is widely considered an international classic.Ardrey's scientific work played a major role in overturning long-standing assumptions in the social sciences. In particular, both African Genesis (1961) and The Territorial Imperative (1966), two of his most widely read works, were instrumental in changing scientific doctrine and increasing public awareness of evolutionary science. His work was so popular that many prominent scientists cite it as inspiring them to enter their fields.

Technology and society

Technology society and life or technology and culture refers to cyclical co-dependence, co-influence, and co-production of technology and society upon the other (technology upon culture, and vice versa). This synergistic relationship occurred from the dawn of humankind, with the invention of simple tools and continues into modern technologies such as the printing press and computers. The academic discipline studying the impacts of science, technology, and society, and vice versa is called science and technology studies.

The Hunting Hypothesis

The Hunting Hypothesis: A Personal Conclusion Concerning the Evolutionary Nature of Man (commonly known as The Hunting Hypothesis) is a 1976 work of paleoanthropology by Robert Ardrey. It is the final book in his widely read Nature of Man Series, which also includes African Genesis (1961) and The Territorial Imperative (1966).

The work deals with the ramifications of evolutionarily inherited traits in man, particularly those that developed through hunting. It was also one of the earliest books to warn about the possible dangers of climate change.

The Social Contract (1970 book)

The Social Contract: A Personal Inquiry into the Evolutionary Sources of Order and Disorder is a 1970 book by Robert Ardrey. It is the third in his four-book Nature of Man Series.

The book extended Ardrey's refutation of the prevailing conviction within social sciences that all social behavior is purely learned and not governed by innate patterns. Through interwoven analyses of animals and human social structures Ardrey argued that inherited evolutionary traits are an important determining factor in social behavior.

Ardrey dedicated The Social Contract to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, after whose 1762 work the book was titled.

The Territorial Imperative

The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry Into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations is a 1966 nonfiction book by American writer Robert Ardrey. It describes the evolutionarily determined instinct among humans toward territoriality and the implications of this territoriality in human meta-phenomena such as property ownership and nation building. The Territorial Imperative was an immediate success and remains a widely influential work of popular science. It extended Ardrey's groundbreaking anthropological work, contributed to the development of the science of ethology, and encouraged an increasing public interest in human origins.

The Territorial Imperative is the second book in Ardrey's Nature of Man Series; it is preceded by African Genesis (1961) and followed by The Social Contract (1970) and The Hunting Hypothesis (1976). It was illustrated by Ardrey's wife, the South African actress and illustrator Berdine Ardrey (née Grunewald). Ardrey dedicated The Territorial Imperative to Henry Eliot Howard, who was noted for being one of the first to describe in detail the territorial behaviors of birds.


Triticeae is a botanical tribe within the subfamily Pooideae of grasses that includes genera with many domesticated species. Major crop genera found in this tribe include wheat (See Wheat taxonomy), barley, and rye; crops in other genera include some for human consumption and others used for animal feed or rangeland protection. Among the world's cultivated species, this tribe has some of the most complex genetic histories. An example is bread wheat, which contains the genomes of three species, only one of them originally a wheat Triticum species. Seed storage proteins in the Triticeae are implicated in various food allergies and intolerances.


Tyrannosaurus is a genus of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaur. The species Tyrannosaurus rex (rex meaning "king" in Latin), often called T. rex or colloquially T-Rex, is one of the most well-represented of the large theropods. Tyrannosaurus lived throughout what is now western North America, on what was then an island continent known as Laramidia. Tyrannosaurus had a much wider range than other tyrannosaurids. Fossils are found in a variety of rock formations dating to the Maastrichtian age of the upper Cretaceous Period, 68 to 66 million years ago. It was the last known member of the tyrannosaurids, and among the last non-avian dinosaurs to exist before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

Like other tyrannosaurids, Tyrannosaurus was a bipedal carnivore with a massive skull balanced by a long, heavy tail. Relative to its large and powerful hindlimbs, Tyrannosaurus forelimbs were short but unusually powerful for their size and had two clawed digits. The most complete specimen measures up to 12.3 m (40 ft) in length though T. rex could grow to lengths of over 12.3 m (40 ft), up to 3.66 meters (12 ft) tall at the hips, and according to most modern estimates 8.4 metric tons (9.3 short tons) to 14 metric tons (15.4 short tons) in weight. Although other theropods rivaled or exceeded Tyrannosaurus rex in size, it is still among the largest known land predators and is estimated to have exerted the strongest bite force among all terrestrial animals. By far the largest carnivore in its environment, Tyrannosaurus rex was most likely an apex predator, preying upon hadrosaurs, armored herbivores like ceratopsians and ankylosaurs, and possibly sauropods. Some experts have suggested the dinosaur was primarily a scavenger. The question of whether Tyrannosaurus was an apex predator or a pure scavenger was among the longest debates in paleontology. Most paleontologists today accept that Tyrannosaurus was both an active predator and a scavenger.

More than fifty major specimens of Tyrannosaurus rex have been identified, some of which are nearly complete skeletons. Soft tissue and proteins have been reported in at least one of these specimens. The abundance of fossil material has allowed significant research into many aspects of its biology, including its life history and biomechanics. The feeding habits, physiology and potential speed of Tyrannosaurus rex are a few subjects of debate. Its taxonomy is also controversial, as some scientists consider Tarbosaurus bataar from Asia to be a second Tyrannosaurus species while others maintain Tarbosaurus is a separate genus. Several other genera of North American tyrannosaurids have also been synonymized with Tyrannosaurus.

As the archetypal theropod, Tyrannosaurus has been one of the best-known dinosaurs since the early 20th century, and has been featured in film, advertising, postal stamps, and many other media.


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