Our higher cognitive abilities were developed because we extinguished the large animals

Our higher cognitive abilities developed because we extinguished the large animals

Evidenced by a growth in brain volume, our superior cognitive abilities were developed because we hunted and extinguished megafauna , according to a new study from Tel Aviv University.

This would occur about two million years ago, until the arrival of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago. The reason: we had to develop our brains to hunt smaller animals .

Megafauna in decline

Megafauna are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. The term is especially associated in current scientific literature with the megafauna of the late Pleistocene and the Holocene that has been dying out in a process known as the Quaternary mass extinction.

In Africa, 2.6 million years ago, when humans emerged, the average size of land mammals was close to 500 kg. But then, just as the agricultural revolution began, that number had dropped by more than 90% , to several tens of kilos.

In order to obtain calories, then, humans were forced to hunt smaller and faster animals , which required greater cognitive abilities, more cunning, an evolutionary process that required a greater volume of the human brain and then led to the development of language that it allowed humans to exchange information to find prey and collaborate to hunt it. It also required more sophisticated hunting tools, that is, greater intelligence to develop them.

As Miki Ben-Dor , from the department of Archeology and author of the study explains:

As the size of the animals continued to decrease, the invention of the bow and arrow and the domestication of dogs allowed for more efficient hunting of medium and small animals. until these populations also declined. Towards the end of the Stone Age, when animals became even smaller, humans had to put more energy into hunting than they could recover.

It was then that the Agricultural Revolution occurred, which involved the domestication of both animals and plants, and which brought other side effects (many of which were negative).