Caption:TOKYO - JANUARY 05: Fishmongers check the quality large tuna fish during the new year's first auction at the Tsukiji fish market on January 5, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan. The market handles approx 2,888 tons of fish a day generating over 2.8 billion yen. (Photo : Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)
Humans have escalated to 'Super Predator' status, according to a study published on Science Magazine titled, 'The Unique Ecology of Human Predators.'
Chris Darimont, Caroline Fox, Heather Bryan, and Thomas Reimchen analyzed global data on humans' hunting practices and the impact it has on the prey. The data reveals that humans, as 'Super Predators' slay adult animals in higher proportions as compared to their non-human prey. Darimont and team note that we are so heavily focused on taking down the adult prey. In the context of the fishing industry, humans typically take out adult fish populations at 14 times the rate that marine animals do themselves. Part of this penchant for hunting adult animals is our privilege of harnessing tools that we can use to tackle prey at a minimal cost yet gain a maximum albeit short term reward, according to Darimont who is from the University of Victoria (UoV), Canada in a statement to BBC.
"Advanced killing technology mostly excuses humans from the formerly dangerous act of predation," he told BBC. "Hunters 'capture' mammals with bullets, and fishes with hooks and nets. They assume minimal risk compared with non-human predators, especially terrestrial carnivores, which are often injured while living what amounts to a dangerous lifestyle," added Darimont.
The concentration on adult animal predation will soon disrupt the global food chain and shift the attention to juvenile animals, furthers the researchers. Co-author Reimchen uses the financial analogy to explain the damage this entails.
According to Reimchen, the adult population is the system's "reproductive capital" and that instead of exploiting these animals, what we should really be targeting are the juveniles -the "interest" and of which many species will produce in colossal numbers, expecting a good fraction to be doomed from the moment they are born via predation, starvation, disease, accidents and more, notes Reimchen.
"In the overwhelming number of cases as fishes age, they become more fecund. That is to say, they produce more eggs, have more babies, and, in fact, in many cases, many of those babies are more likely to survive and reproduce themselves. So when a predator targets that reproductive age class and especially the larger more fecund animals in those populations, we are dialling back the reproductive capacity of populations," Darimont argues.
However, Zoological Society of London, UK's Dr Chris Carbone who studies predator-prey relationships warns that while the study was comprehensive, it still lacks data especially in numbers in the aspect of the marine environment. 'Refocusing' the age class to juveniles would very much depend on the species in question. "We exist at vastly higher densities than natural predators," shared Carbone.
"It might be that 100 zebras could support a lion, but in the case of humans we can outnumber our prey in many instances, and that throws the system. So even if we didn't have the efficient hunting technology, we'd still have problems with sustainability," Carbone added.