Hunter-gatherers mirror the behaviour of mammals and birds in the same area

Hunter-gatherers of Tanzania 2020

The human is the human-animal. We need to remind ourselves of that. It is unsurprising, therefore, that scientists have concluded that human beings who live as hunter-gatherers organise their social groups, find food and reproduce in similar ways to the mammals and bird species living in the same area as them.

Surprisingly there are still some hunter gatherers on the planet today in 2020. Although there are very few. Over the past 500 years the population of hunter-gatherers has declined dramatically, as is to be expected. National Geographic tells me that the Hazda people of Tanzania are one of the last groups of hunter-gatherers.

Hunter-gatherers of Tanzania 2020

Hunter-gatherers of Tanzania 2020. Photo: MATTHIEU PALEY

The researchers analysed the data from 300 locations. They claim that it is the first study of its kind which shows the effect that environments have on the populations both of animals and people in an area. They analysed 339 hunter-gatherer groups. They compared the information with the behaviour of local animal species. Human behaviour matched that of the local birds and animals closely. Environmental factors were the key to this similarity in behaviour.

For example, the male of the human-animal fathers children at an older age in areas where mammals and birds also father their offspring later in life. The same similarity occurred in respect of how far they were prepared to travel to hunt. Toman Barsbai, the author of the report, an economist from the University of Bristol said, “This is the first time a broad comparative perspective has been used to systematically compare very different species – humans, mammals and birds – across a wide range of behaviours. The similarities are not only present for behaviours directly relating to the environment…but they also exist for reproductive and social behaviours, which might seem less dependent on the local environment.”

They used an ethnographic database compiled by an archaeologist, Lewis Binford. An ethnographic database is one which contains information about peoples, cultures and their customs, habits and mutual differences. The database held information about the behaviours of 339 hunter-gatherers. They compared the information with all mammal and bird species living within a 15.5 mile radius of the humans.

They compared 15 behavioural traits or variables in the human database because they had similar information with respect to non-human species. They had believed that different species would behave differently in the same place and under the same but this was not the case.

Comment: as I say in the opening paragraph, it doesn’t surprise me because if we remind ourselves that humans are human-animals i.e. a species of animal at a fundamental level and also mammals, I would expect mammals which are animals would be likely to behave in a similar way under similar environmental conditions and in a similar habitat.