Bushmen Were Quite Quick To Evolve Poison-Arrow Hunting, Says Study

Posted: Feb 3 2016, 3:11am CST | by , Updated: Feb 3 2016, 3:15am CST, in News | Latest Science News


Bushmen were Too Quick to Evolve Poison-Arrow Hunting, Says Study
Credit: University of Kansas

New study shed light into poison sources and preparation of poison by San Tribes. Environmental awarness of African people led them to evolve hunting methods

It has been thought that hunting methods were evolved late in human history. But a new research has found that it did not take long for humans to adopt poison arrow heads and bowhunting.

Using poisoned arrows for hunting represents a cognitive shift in human behavior since it requires great observation, skills and planning to hunt animals. 

Researchers from University of Kansas attempted to find out the poison sources and its preparations by San tribes from Namibia. San people, also called Bushmen, are the oldest inhabitants of southern Africa who used differet kinds of poisons to boost the lethality of their arrows.

Researchers found that some of the poison derived from certain plants while others came from specific beetle species. And they used only larvae beetles for its production.

Ancient hunters dug up cocoons from the soil and took out larvae from within. Then, they rubbed its skin against a stick and extracted its tissues which were mixed with rest of the ingredients later and applied to arrows.

"The poison is a slow-acting paralyzing poison, “said Caroline Chaboo, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas and lead author of the study. "The animal continues to run after being hit, but over the next few hours, the animal becomes increasingly unable to move well, and it finally falls over. Then the hunter can finish off the animal.”

Although, nowadays, most of the San tribes have replaced poison arrows with modern hunting tools or have abandoned the method due to restrictions, still it reflects a major shift in the evolution of human cognition.

“Our cross-disciplinary synthesis of historical literature, reports of anthropologists and our own collective fieldwork in southern Africa indicates that beetle arrow poison is used by seven San group.” 

“Although these San communities live short distances apart, their arrow poisons are diverse, pointing to an incredibly intimate knowledge of their environment.” Researchers wrote.

Researchers added. “The discovery of arrow poison arrow poisons was a significant evolutionary step for humankind, yet we are facing the last opportunity to document arrow-poison use in southern African hunter-gatherer societies."

The research was published in Journal ZooKeys.

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The Author

Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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