10 Fearsome Animals That Hunted and Ate Our Ancestors

You do not imagine what your ancestors survived so that you can exist today

Thanks to technology, Man today is able to hunt any animal on Earth. Fruit of a constant evolution and an uninterrupted heritage, our species has developed over millennia to arrive at this domination. However, our ancestors were clearly not at the top of the food chain, or very often prey.  Historyrundown offers you a list of 10 animals that hunted our ancestors.

The Saber-toothed Tiger

Indeed, these large animals with long teeth did not hesitate to make the first humans their meal, and this, as soon as they had the opportunity.

Fearsome Animals- The Saber-toothed Tiger
Wikimedia / Sergiodlarosa

In 2015 in particular, scientists recovered and got hold of fossils corresponding to this species, more than 300,000 years old. The analyzes determined that Homo heidelbergensis , probable ancestor of modern man, used in particular one of the bones of the saber-toothed tiger as a hammer! That is to say the strength of the animal, which will be progressively more and more chased over time by Man.

One of the best known genres is the Smilodon, found in many popular culture works (video games, films, fantasy books, etc.)

Aside from humans, saber-toothed tigers fed on large mammals, such as elephants, rhinos and other very large herbivores of the time.

Haast’s Giant Eagle

This New Zealand eagle is the largest known raptor to have existed. Disappeared in the 15th century, the species reigned for centuries on the island.

In Maori folklore, it is regularly mentioned the existence of a huge bird which hunted and ate human babies. The Maori called the bird Te Hokioi, but scientists believe it to be the eagle of Haast.The island’s main predator, it was almost a meter high, 1.5 meters long and weighed 14 kg. Its impressive wingspan of 3 meters, its claws and its beak twice as long as the largest eagles in the contemporary world make it a formidable predator.

Haast's Giant Eagle
Artist’s rendition of a giant Haast’s eagle attacking New Zealand moa. Image source: Wikipedia

How did it go out? You should know that this bird fed on moa. However, the Maori hunted the moa until extinction, which caused the number of Haast eagles to drop in droves. Indeed, there was no longer enough large and large prey to satiate the individual …

Crocodylus Anthropophagus

Behind its enigmatic name, this large crocodile, now extinct, hunted humans and hominins more than 1.8 million years ago. His preference for human flesh is evident if only by name, anthropophagus literally meaning “human eater”.

Crocodylus Anthropophagus
Wikimedia / NobuTamura

The first fossil of the species was discovered in a gorge in Tanzania in 2007. Nearby, human bones, which included several traces of crocodile bites, suggest that our ancestors served as a meal for this formidable predator. Historians now believe that the crocodile regularly hid underwater and jumped suddenly to catch its prey, which came to drink nearby. Like current crocodiles, but in larger dimensions and with a much more massive force. Scientists even believe that humans were the target of choice for the crocodile, which placed it at the top of its preferences …

The Snakes

Even today, man has a visceral fear of snakes. This fear would have even determined our evolution since snakes and primates have lived together for more than 100 million years. Snakes did attack primates and once considered them a superb source of food, despite fiercer resistance than some other mammals.

According to Lynne Isbell of the University of California, the fear of ending up in the belly of a snake prompted ancient primates, our ancestors, to develop a larger brain and more vivid eyes. So yes, our ancestors also had good eyes, they could spot animals in the distance, but on the other hand, it was much more difficult for snakes. Indeed, these glide on the ground, approaching furtively before attacking in a fraction of a second. So, to remedy this, primates have evolved, and color and other 3D movements have been added to the incredible range of skills that our eyes allow us. Nature being extraordinary, snakes, too, had to adapt to react and regain control: it was then that around 60 million years ago, the first venomous snakes appeared, bringing with them a fatal and effective weapon against the improved sight of the first primates. In return, the first primates, in turn, developed a larger brain to process visual impairments more quickly … Today, snakes and humans remain, deadly enemies, even if it is commonly accepted that with our technologies, human has the advantage!

Crocodylus Thorbjarnarsoni

The second crocodile on our list, Crocodylus thorbjarnarsoni was an animal that hunted the first humans on a regular basis. He lived in particular in Lake Turkana, located in present-day Kenya, between 2 and 4 million years ago.

Like every crocodile, it hid underwater, waiting for its prey to come to drink, and leaped upwards to attack and kill it, often by drowning.

Crocodylus Thorbjarnarsoni
Wikimedia – Smokeybjb

Physically, we are dealing with a monster of strength. Over 8 meters long (8.3 exactly), it is the largest crocodile of all time. Currently, the largest crocodile that we have been able to have in captivity is “only” 6 meters … In addition to its considerable advantage compared to a man, it should also be known that the first humans were much smaller than we are now , since it is estimated that the average was only 1m20! The crocodile was therefore physically able to swallow a human whole and digest it without any problem.

The Cave Bear

The cave bear, or Ursus spelaeus , lived on Earth about 100,000 years ago. Extinct more than 25,000 years ago, it is the ancestor of the brown bears we know today – and which are threatened elsewhere. Native to Europe, he hibernated like his fellows in caves in winter, and it is in these latter that we regularly find bones of this very intriguing species. In the Middle Ages, researchers also took these bones for dragon bones, which is to say how impressed they are.

Fearsome Animals The Cave Bear
Wikimedia – Sergiodlarosa

40,000 years ago, this bear lived at the same time as the Neanderthals, and this, until the arrival of modern man. Thus, the researchers believe that logically, clashes were frequent between the two sides to share the caves, which were the home and place of rest in both cases. In fairly hostile environments, it should not be overlooked that habitat was the main concern – with food, of course. But on this point, no confrontation, since the cave bear mainly fed on plants, and humans hunted the bear only when it was a source of danger that could not be avoided. More likely, there was perhaps an alternation with the bear: the men occupied the caves in summer, and when winter came with the bears, they left the room.

An Unidentified Eagle

It was in 1924 that scientists discovered a two million-year-old fossil skull belonging to a young Australopithecus africanus in South Africa. This discovery is the reason why historians believe that Man is originally from Africa, because it would be the missing link in the evolution of Man. In short, the fossil was named “Taung’s child,” and is believed to have been three and a half years old at the time of his death. The most important thing is that it was discovered accompanied by fossils of several other animals, which indicates the presence of an ultra dominant predator in the region. Initially, scientists thought it was a saber-toothed tiger, but further investigation revealed that it was an unidentified eagle.

The wounds on the child’s skull indicate a bite from an eagle’s beak and scratch corresponding to its large legs. Today it is believed to resemble the modern African eagle. This predatory eagle hunted and devoured monkeys. Generally, eagles use their talons and beaks to remove the eyes of the prey and thus reach the brain. The adult humans are too big to have been hunted by this eagle, but here it is about a human infant child: thus, this eagle must have made many victims among the infants, representing easy prey, source of fresh meat with no resistance …

Hyenas, or Rather Their Ancestors

In 1994, we discovered Homo rhodesiensis , over 500,000 years old, through a search that led to the observation of a femur. This ancestor of the Neanderthal Man provides us with a multitude of information on our ancestors certainly, but also another major: the bone was heavily damaged, even broken, by a hyena, a species now extinct. Proof of impressive jaw strength, current hyenas are not able to break a femur.

Again, men and animals lived in caves and rubbed shoulders, clashed. Scientists therefore logically suspect that Man was hunted by these groups of hyenas, excellent hunters who also attacked the big game, much larger than themselves.

Other Humans

When you think about it, it is quite logical. Scientists have discovered a multitude of fossils with clear evidence of cannibalism in Europe. But they also believe that the Neanderthals did not actively hunt their own species for food because the calories in one human are insufficient to adequately and sustainably feed another. For comparison, a horse represents 200,000 calories, against only 32,000 for a human.

Even so, it is estimated that many cases of cannibalism were taking place across the continent and that Neanderthals could have contained more calories, as scientists have determined that their muscle mass is larger than a current human. In all cases, the reasons for cannibalism are multiple, whether to overcome famine, for rituals or even simply in self-defense …

Almost All Carnivores

One of our oldest ancestors, the Proconsul, was used as a target and food for almost any meat-eating species. So we were targets for almost every predator. This ancestor thus lived in present-day Africa, more than 20 million years ago, and resembled what a monkey is today. It would also be our common ancestor, along with the primates.

Fearsome Animals Almost All Carnivores
Wikimedia – Nobu Tamura

Physically, he was between 1 and 1.5 meters tall and weighed between 11 and 45 pounds. However, it had no tail. Endowed with intelligence comparable to a current monkey, he also walked on all fours. Whether it be birds or mammals, everyone attacked him …

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