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Hyenas Hunted, Ate Humans 500,000 Years Ago, Fossil Reveals

First Posted: May 01, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
Kenyan Safari
A fossil of femur showed that it was chewed by hyenas 500,000 years ago.
(Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A fossil study shows that hyena ate early humans 500,000 years ago. The fossil that had been discovered comprises of 500,000-year-old femur with tooth marks and fractures believed to be made by an extinct hyena.

The study was issued online in the journal PLOS ONE. The researchers found the hominin bone in a Moroccan cave called Grotte a Hominides near the Casablanca in 1994. The cave has ancient stone tools and bones of other animals such as gazelles, bears, baboons, antelopes, rhinos, dating to the Middle Pleistocenea. This is a period lasting from about 781,000 to 126,000 years ago, according to Live Science.

The authors of the study aid that the bone represents the first evidence of consumption of human remains by carnivores in the cave. They further said that the chewed femur indicates that humans were the (food) resource for carnivores, underlying their close relationships during the Middle Pleistocene in Atlantic Morocco.

Camille Daujeard, the lead author of the study and a researcher in the Department of Prehistory at the National Museum of Natural History in France said that it is not surprising that a large, carnivorous predator would hunt down a hominin. "During this period, early humans likely competed for space (such as natural caves) and resources with large carnivores, who occupied many of the same areas."

Based on how the femur was eaten and the tooth marks left in the thighbone, the researchers suspected that a hyena ate the human. On the other hand, the researchers said that it is unclear if the hyena killed the human or it might chew the femur upon a dead human and ate the remains.

Likewise, hominins rummaged for local carnivores. Daujeard said that hominins were quite able of killing large prey, of evicting large carnivores off their habitats and even occasional hunting or exploiting them. She further said that both hominins and carnivores could have been predators, prey and scavenged leftovers.

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