duminică, 2 octombrie 2011

Predators without bodily equipment

Why would the right amygdala be hard-wired for responding to, focusing on, and remembering visual information about animals?

My answer is that this functional specialization in the brain helped our early ancestors survive their anomalous position as predators-without-bodily-equipment long before the invention of language. Unlike other mammalian predators, our ancestors did not evolve strong forelimbs, grasping claws, slicing teeth, speed, or an enhanced sense of smell for capturing animals. Our ancestors took an evolutionary short-cut 2.6 million years ago and invented stone tools. With those tools, they were able to obtain meat, fat, marrow, and hide from prey that they had never been able to take before. Abundant cutmarks on fossil bones starting at 2.6 million years ago show that our ancestors quickly became highly effective hunters, even though they had none of the bodily equipment of true carnivores.

By being predators-without-equipment, our ancestors came under evolutionary pressure to pay close attention both to the real carnivores, who competed for prey and wouldn't balk at eating our ancestors, and their own potential prey. Accumulating visual information about the behavior of both sorts of animals became key to survival.

Pat Shipman, Hard-Wired for Animals

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