Super Predators: Humans May be the Deadliest Hunters on Earth

First Posted: Aug 20, 2015 03:53 PM EDT

Humans may just be super predators. Researchers have conducted a new study that reveals new insight behind widespread wildlife extinctions, shrinking fish sizes and disruptions to global food chains.

"These are extreme outcomes that non-human predators seldom impose," said Christ Darimont, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Our wickedly efficiently killing technology, global economic systems and resource management that prioritize short-term benefits to humanity has given rise to the human super predator."

The researchers conducted a global analysis that showed that humans typically exploit adult fish populations at 14 times the rate of marine predators. In addition, humans hunt and kill large carnivores, such as bears, wolves and lions, at nine times the rate that these predatory animals kill each other in the wild.

"Whereas predators primarily target the juveniles or 'reproductive interest' of populations, humans draw down the 'reproductive capital' by exploiting adult prey," said Tom Reimchen, co-author of the new study. In other words, humans can cause populations to become weaker through their choice of bigger and stronger animals.

The findings reveal that humans may just be the super predators on the planet at this point in time. In addition, the findings reveal that it's important to consider the concept of "sustainable exploitation" in both wildlife and fisheries management. A truly sustainable model will require cultivating cultural, economic and institutional change that places limits on human activities to more closely follow the behavior of natural predators.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

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