Re: Speciation - how do you know?

Nick Maclaren (
29 Sep 1996 12:51:26 GMT

In article <>, (Paul Crowley) writes:
|> In article <52bmh8$>
|> "HARRY R. ERWIN" writes:
|> > Compare those with the predatory strategies of cats, sabre-tooths, bears,
|> > and dogs, and you see evidence for a short-range ambush hunter that
|> > specialized on large prey. In some ways, an ecological vicar of a bear or
|> > sabre-toothed cat.
|> Ambush hunters rely on (1) a short and intense burst of high speed
|> and (2) overwhelming power or weaponry. They can't afford the risk
|> of injury and either kill quickly or not at all.
|> Neanderthals had neither (1) nor (2). Even if they managed to
|> surprise a quadruped, there is no way they could have caught it or
|> held it down. If it felt threatened (IMO somewhat unlikely) it
|> would be off like a shot. And, unless it was small, they could not
|> have killed it quickly. (Perhaps you could suggest how they might
|> kill a large bovid quickly.) Furthermore, the risk of injury to
|> the hominid would have been unacceptably high. A upright biped is
|> extraordinarily vulnerable. One charge by a quadruped is likely
|> to break its bones.

Sorry, no. Here is how modern humans have hunted even very large
quadrupeds in wooded country with clubs or spears alone. I admit
that a healthy adult aurochs would be quite a handful, but the
smaller, unarmoured large animals (such as red deer, reindeer,
ponies etc.), wild sow and immature or sick aurochs are fairly
easy to deal with.

Surround an isolated, preferably immature, old or sick, animal
feeding or resting in a glade. Stay behind cover, and have one
person every 6-12 feet in directions that it is likely to run. One
group stands up and shouts. The animal will usually run in the other
direction, but it doesn't matter if it charges. However, there is
more risk of injury in the latter case.

As it passes or charges one person, the others whack it hard
on the head or legs. If a club connects on a leg, the animal
will usually go down, and the leg will often be broken. Spears
are used in a similar way. Note that you do NOT tackle the animal
head-on. Anyone charged DIRECTLY should try to jump out of the
way while the others distract the charge.

For smaller animals, pile in and clobber it repeatedly. For
larger ones, hit it while it is down and try to break a leg or stun
it. If it gets up with a broken leg, surround it and hit it from
behind, trying to break another. This also prevents it charging.
If it gets up intact, and is a dangerous animal, stand back and
either let it go or repeat from the second step if it charges.

Note that there is a significant chance of the animal going down
on someone - which would cause rodeo type accidents. But other than
that, the technique is dangerous only for adult aurochs and adult
boar (and impossible for mammoth!) The key is in numbers, and it
is absolutely critical that you can trust everyone else to distract
a charging animal by attacking it from the side.

Note that speed is NOT needed - merely numbers, coordination and
bravery. This technique does not work as well in open country,
but does in woodland, especially because grass grows mainly in
glades and the large quadrupeds spend a lot of time feeding in

Also, remember that a large animal will feed a group of 40 for a
week or more - i.e. only 50 kills are needed a year. And such a
group can afford a couple of deaths a year, assuming that hunting
accidents account for most deaths of adult males.

Nick Maclaren,
University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory,
New Museums Site, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QG, England.
Tel.: +44 1223 334761 Fax: +44 1223 334679