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远古人是猎物

2006-02-21 00:00王高山,CRI

Ancient Man was not a hunter but the hunted, according to new research that suggests that human intelligence and social co-operation evolved to allow our ancestors to escape predators rather than to catch prey.

Studies of fossil teeth and bones from human species that lived millions of years ago indicate that meat did not play a significant part in diet, and that at least one in twenty met their end in a predator's jaws.

The findings support the idea that the communication skills and group living that are characteristic of modern Homo sapiens evolved as defensive measures against lions, hyenas, crocodiles and eagles.

If the predation hypothesis is correct, it might explain why hominids of the genus Homo, such as Homo erectus, survived to give rise to modern humans while other relatives such as Paranthropus, that lived alongside for hundreds of thousands of years, died out.

If Homo erectus and Paranthropus were threatened by the same predators, but the former's social skills made it even a little more likely to escape, the small difference would have become a great advantage over time. Predators would have taken more and more of the less evasive species, which would eventually have been driven extinct.

Research by Robert Sussman, of Washington University, St Louis, has identified that teeth belonging to an older species of hominid, Australopithecus afarensis, were poorly adapted for meat eating, suggesting that it was not a hunter. About 6 per cent of all A. afarensis bones, however, show tooth marks that are consistent with predation, indicating that this was a major cause of death.

"Fossil teeth weren't good for eating meat, so why would we hunt meat?" Dr Sussman told the conference. Augustin Fuentes, of Notre Dame University, Indiana, said: "The bottom line is that predation is important for our evolution. Humanity evolved more by helping each other than by fighting with one another."



古代人类不仅不是捕猎者,反而是其它动物捕食的对象。最新一项研究结果显示,人类的聪明才智及社会合作能力之所以不断进化,是为了使自身逃脱捕食动物的追赶,而非猎取它们。

据《泰晤士报》2月20日报道,通过对数百万年前的远古人类的牙齿及骨骼化石的研究,美国华盛顿大学的罗伯特·瑟斯曼博士发现,肉类食物在远古人类的日常饮食当中并不占据重要位置;相反,他们中至少有二十分之一的人丧命于食肉动物的口中。这个发现支持了此前的一个观点,即认为晚期智人(大约从距今四五万年前开始出现)具备的两个特征——思想交流能力和过群体生活,是他们为防范狮子、鬣狗、鳄鱼及老鹰等食肉动物的攻击而进化来的。

报道说,如果上述观点正确的话,那么将不难解释为何一些原始人类(如直立人,生活在距今约180万~20万年前)能够生存下来,并进化成现在的人类;而另外一些原始人(如傍人Paranthropus )却最终走向了灭绝。

如果直立人和傍人当时面临着相同的捕食动物的威胁,但前者的社会技能使其较之后者拥有稍多些的逃跑可能。久而久之,这种小小的不同就会演变成一种巨大的生存优势,会有越来越多不善于逃避的原始人类受到捕捉,并最终走向灭亡。

报道说,瑟斯曼博士对一种原始人类--阿法南猿(Australopithecus afarensis)的牙齿进行研究后,确认他们的牙齿并不适合吃肉。这说明,阿法南猿并非捕猎者。另外,有大约6%的阿法南猿的骨骼化石上都留有其它食肉动物的牙印,这说明当时受到其它动物的捕捉是导致他们死亡的一个主要原因。

相关热词:bilingual news study human ancient
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