Study calls humans unsustainable “super predators”

Chris Burns - Aug 21, 2015, 10:49 am CST
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Study calls humans unsustainable “super predators”

A ten-year study is published on “the unique ecology of human predators”, showing mankind to be an unsustainable threat to all wildlife on our planet. This paper, authored by C. Darimont, C. Fox, H. Bryan, and T. Reimchen, compares the predatory patterns of humans to all other predators on the planet. They show that humans kill adult prey at a median rate up to 14 times higher than other predators, with “particularly intense exploitation” of terrestrial carnivores and fish.

One reason why this exploitation is especially damaging is because of the slow rate at which carnivores have adapted to our hunting of them. A lion, for example, isn’t particularly well suited to defending itself against predators like humans. A pride of lions suffers far more damage at the death of a single adult member than a herd of deer or a school of fish.

Unfortunately, as noted above, there’s bad news in the fish world too. Because of fishing practices by humans around the world – overfishing, mostly – more than 90 fish species are at risk of extinction.

Speaking with the blog side of Science, Darimont suggested that while humans kill carnivores “not for food, but for trophies and—sometimes—to eliminate them as competitors”, we damage their species in ways that are extremely difficult to make up for.

The study concludes that human “super predators” will need to be “additionally constrained by managers” if we’re to have any hope of reigning in the current destruction of ecological and evolutionary processes we’ve wrought worldwide.

You can learn more in the paper “The unique ecology of human predators” by authors Chris T. Darimont, Caroline H. Fox, Heather M. Bryan, and Thomas E. Reimchen in the journal Science under code DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4249.


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