Hunter-gatherers and other primates as prey, predators, and competitors of snakes

Statement of Responsibility:
Headland, Thomas N. and Harry W. Greene
Date:
2011
Abstract:
Relationships between primates and snakes are of widespread interest from anthropological, psychological, and evolutionary perspectives, but surprisingly little is known about dangers serpents have posed to people with prehistoric lifestyles and to non-human primates. Here we report ethnographic observations of 120 Philippine Agta Negritos when they were still preliterate hunter-gatherers, among whom 26% of adult males had survived predation attempts by reticulated pythons. Six fatal attacks occurred between 1934 and 1973. Agta ate pythons as well as deer, wild pigs, and monkeys, which are also eaten by pythons, so the two species were reciprocally prey, predators, and potential competitors. Natural history data document snake predation on tree-shrews and 26 species of non-human primates, as well as many species of primates approaching, mobbing, killing, and sometimes eating snakes. These findings, interpreted within the context of snake and primate phylogenies, corroborate the hypothesis that complex ecological interactions have long characterized our shared evolutionary history.
Extent:
E1470–E1474
Subject:
Agta people
hunter-gatherers
paleoecology
Philippines
predation
primates
snakes
Country:
Philippines
Field:
Content Language:
Nature of Work: