The “position” of humans in the food chain is only similar to that of domestic pigs!

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2021-12-28 22:02:51

Humans not at the top of the food chain of course does not mean that humans will be threatened by many other species, but that our survival advantage in nature is not at the top. Lions, gray wolves and great white sharks are all top predators. Their diet is mostly meat, and these animals have almost no natural enemies – except humans. Even if we are the natural enemies of all top predators, are we at the top of the food chain?

Before answering this question, we must first understand what determines a species’ position in the food chain.

From an ecological point of view, man’s place in the food chain does not depend on which animals can eat us, nor on which animals do not eat us, but on what we eat. . Although humans can kill almost all top predators, but based on ecological principle, as long as humans don’t eat them and consider them as main food, humans won’t be able to stand above them in the food chain. This is why humans are not at the top of the food chain.

The position of a species in the food chain is called a trophic level, and generally does not exceed five orders of magnitude. Plants and organisms can obtain energy from nature and produce organic matter, occupying the first level of nutrition. Herbivores occupy the second trophic level. Carnivores eat only herbivores with trophic level 3, etc… if species A eats species B, then the trophic level of species A is one order of magnitude higher than that of species B. For omnivores, since their food comes from multiple trophic levels, their trophic levels need to be considered together. For example, if 50% of a species’ food comes from plants and 50% from herbivores, its nutrient level is 2.5.

In 2013, scientists from the French Institute of Marine Development (IFREMER) published human nutritional levels in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, they found that, on average, 80% of the calories a person consumes come from plants and 20% from meat. The corresponding nutrient level is 2.21, which is between anchovies and domestic pigs. However, around the world, human nutritional levels fluctuate greatly. In 2009, 96.7% of the calories Burundians consumed came from plant foods, and the nutritional level of the people of this country (located in East Africa) dropped to 2.04. At the same time, 50% of the calories Icelanders consume come from meat, with a nutrient profile of about 2.57.

Of course, humans are a threat to other species. Some scientists think that humans are putting too much pressure on other species to survive, making us “super predators”. A 2015 paper published in the journal Science compared the hunting efficiency of hunters, fishermen, and other land and marine animals, and found that humans hunted prey 14 times faster than humans. other animals.

However, some scientists disagree with the use of the term “super predator”, believing that the term is easily confused with “top predator”. In ecology, predators have a clear definition: predators will eat the prey they kill. Simply killing prey and eating prey are two completely different concepts.

In many cases, the killing of our wild animals does not stem from the search for food to survive. For example, the main cause of lion population decline is the destruction of their habitat and subsequent conflict with humans: humans do not want lions to harm themselves, nor do they want lions to cause harm. threat to their herds so hunted and killed them. According to a study published in the Journal of Fish and Fisheries in 2017, offshore fishermen throw away 10% to 20% of their catch because it’s not the type of fish they want to catch. . According to the US Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, these accidentally caught animals are often injured or killed. Therefore, it is suggested that the term “hyperconsumption” should be used instead.

But in ancient times, humans ate almost every living thing they killed. Ben-Dor and colleagues looked at research in human physiology, genetics, archaeology, and paleontology, and reconstructed the nutritional levels of modern human ancestors during the 20th century. Pleistocene (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago).

They concluded that from more than 2 million years ago until the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago, humans may have been top predators and only ate meat. This study was published in the American Journal of Biological Anthropology. This study believes that the physiological structure of humans is close to the physiological structure of carnivores. The acid in our stomach can break down complex proteins and kill harmful bacteria. A higher percentage of body fat may also make it possible for us to go on without prey for a period of time.

The scientists also show that analysis of different nitrogen isotopes in ancient human remains shows that the proportions of some isotopes will increase with an increase in meat consumption. Compared with people who mainly eat plants, the proportion of these nitrogen isotopes in the nails and hair of ancient people was higher. In essence, this is another proof that ancient humans ate more meat.

So, from ancient times to modern times, man’s position in the food chain has not increased but decreased. Ben-Dor and colleagues summarized a number of reasons. They believe the main cause is the extinction of large animals such as woolly mammoths. At the same time, the development of tool technology allows humans to process food with more sophisticated means, such as processing rice with stone tools, allowing humans to eat more plants.

Even if we used to eat meat and were higher up in the food chain, this does not mean that modern humans are higher up in the food chain. However, it is still easy to find evidence that we were once a top predator after all.

On the contrary, the continuous development of human civilization has reduced the nutritional level of people. Hunting could not feed many, and the development of agriculture could feed more people. After all, the transfer of energy between trophic levels is always accompanied by great loss.

Humans continue to lower their nutritional levels, although no longer at the top of the food chain and no longer enjoy the title of “top carnivore”, but as a result humanity as a whole has achieved development beyond step. After all, what we want is just to eat and enjoy delicious food, not to earn the title of “top of the food chain”.


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