Turtles All the Way Down

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Three million years ago, we were more prey than predators, Gregory Cochran notes, but then we began to turn the the tables:

The first sign of our new status was the disappearance of Africa’s giant tortoises. Conventional predators just couldn’t get through their shells, but we could, presumably by throwing or dropping rocks.

First, we drove them extinct in Africa. Next, Homo erectus expanded out of Africa about two million years ago and wiped out the giant tortoises of India and Indonesia. Later, after modern humans developed boats/rafts and Arctic survival techniques, we eliminated the tortoises of Australia and the Americas. In recent millennia, better navigation led to turtle massacres in Madagascar and other islands.

Today giant tortoises are only found in out-of-the-way places like Aldabra and the Galapagos Islands — and we nearly killed them off.

Man took his first step towards ecological dominance on the back of a giant turtle.

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