The human predator shares many similarities with other animal predators on this planet. They are intelligent, they can work either independently or in groups. They can be strategic, cunning, and postulate on possible future outcomes of actions and events. Despite such similarities, the human predator is very different from any other currently living on Earth. At a population of over 7.3 billion, humans can be found across the whole planet. They have harnessed the power of other animals to help their survival. A highly adaptable animal and a generalist feeder, they exploit a range of different prey. They have gone beyond simple tool use, creating technology capable of killing thousands of animals in one go (and technology that can potentially wipe out a significant number of humans too). They have developed fuel to allow them to travel vast distances, and societal systems to maximise the efficiency of exploitation. We are not just predators, we are “super predators”.
Evolutionary biologist Thomas Reimchen (University of Victoria) has spent many years studying stickleback fish predation. Many different species like to feed on stickleback but the work Thomas has done found that stickleback predators typically target juveniles, and never take more than 2% of the population in his study area on Haida Gwaii each year. In contrast, Thomas noted that fishers on Haida Gwaii took much more than 2% of the salmon… and they took mostly adults. It’s a pattern many of us will have seen. We take lots, and we take a lot of big individuals. In this new paper Thomas, alongside Chris Darimont – Hakai-Raincoast professor at the University of Victoria, and science director for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and colleagues explore just how different our exploitation rates are from other predators. Continue reading “The unique ecology of human predators”