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Computer simulation of scavenging by hominins and giant hyenas in the late Early Pleistocene

Jesús Rodríguez; Ericson Hölzchen; Ana Isabel Caso-Alonso; Jan Ole Berndt; Christine Hertler; Ingo Timm; Ana Mateos
In: Scientific Reports (Sci Rep), Vol. 13, No. 1, Page 0, Nature Publishing Group UK London, 2023.


Consumption of animal-sourced food is an important factor in broadening the diet of early hominins, promoting brain and body growth, and increasing behavioural complexity. However, whether early hominins obtained animal food by scavenging or hunting large mammals remains debated. Sabre-toothed felids have been proposed to facilitate the expansion of early Homo out of Africa into Europe 1.4–0.8 Ma by creating a niche for scavengers in Eurasia as the carcasses abandoned by these felids still contained abundant edible resources. In contrast, it has been argued that the niche for a large scavenger was already occupied in Eurasia by the giant hyena, preventing hominins from utilising this resource. This study shows that sabre-toothed felids generated carcasses rich in edible resources and that hominins were capable of competing with giant hyenas for this resource. The simulation experiments showed that maintaining an optimum group size is essential for the success of the hominin scavenging strategy. Early hominins could outcompete giant hyenas only if they could successfully dispute carcasses with them. Thus, in the presence of a strong competitor, passive scavenging is essentially the same as confrontational scavenging.

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