Hypercarnivore packs shaped the Pleistocene ecosystem almost a million years ago and it seems that things were happening on a much larger scale back then. New computer models have been used to calculate the capabilities of ancient hypercarnivores such as the cave hyena and the saber-toothed cat.
The scientific findings are surprising to say the least, considering a cave hyena could have taken down a herbivore as big as a mastodon and that, depending on the respective animal’s age and weight, the hyena might have been able to do it either in a pack or even on its own.
The research outlines the influence that the size of these hypercarnivores obviously had in achieving success in hunting prey so much bigger and stronger (considering a mastodon could weigh around two tons) but also explains the beneficial effects that this type of hunting had on the Pleistocene ecosystem.
Surprisingly these big predators helped maintain ecosystems that would have otherwise been wiped out by the big appetites of such massive herbivores as the Mammoth, Mastodon or Elephant. In fact new studies have revealed that when hypercarnivores such as lions, saber-tooth cats and cave hyenas did go extinct it most likely happened as a side effect of the disappearance of this type of prey (particularly in the latter part of this era).
It seems that despite what scientists originally assumed about the extinction risks of such big herbivores, specifically in relation to their immunity to predatory species due to their size and lack of natural predators, things worked differently back then. These ancient hypercarnivores organized themselves into groups and hunted together more efficiently, which led to their ability to bring down such large prey.
This behavior can also be correlated with the hunting habits of modern day predators such as lions and the ratio in which they successfully hunt mega-herbivores that live today (elephants, giraffes and others). The modern research also points out, for example, that lions that pursue and manage to bring down such large prey usually operate in bigger numbers, relying on the strength of their prides.
This new information, scientists say, is revelatory not just of the specifics of the Pleistocene era but that it can also influence the animal conservation efforts attempted nowadays, as it offers valuable insight into the past interactions and relationships between the animals therefore providing more information about the types of interactions they undergo nowadays.
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