Bushmen Used Evolved Hunting Methods

It seems bushmen used evolved hunting methods to kill their prey.

African people are known to have hunted by using poisonous means for centuries, as written in chemistry, anthropology and entomology texts. A fact that was recently discovered through a new study shows that bushmen used evolved hunting methods that involved poisonous plants and beetles.

The study was published in the Zookeys journal, and was led by Caroline Chaboo, an assistant professor of evolutionary biology and ecology at University of Kansas. Chaboo stated that the bushmen, otherwise known as San, have had many aspects of their lives documented, including languages, policy and history, but not hunting.

In order to better understand how bushmen poisoned their arrows, Chaboo and co-authors Andrea Weeks from George Mason University, Robert K. Hitchcock from New Mexico University and Megan Biesele from Kalahari Peoples Fund, had to look through both anthropological and historical literature, but also do some fieldwork.

The researchers were welcomed into a San community in the Kalahari, where they could better observe their customs. Even though old rock paintings show bushmen hunting with arrows, it is not clear when they started poisoning them. The uses of poisoned arrows extended from hunting antelopes, gazelles, warthogs, zebras and wildebeests to fierce predators such as cheetahs and lions, but also large animals like elephants and giraffes.

While it is easy to imagine how the San collect poisonous plants, Chaboo was more interested in the beetle poison. Bushmen dig up soil in order to find cocoons of beetle larvae. The cocoons are cracked and the larvae are squeezed right on the arrow head. The composition is completed with other types of poisons from various plants. The arrowheads are stored safely away from the rest of the community, so no one could unwittingly stumble upon them.

The effects of the poison are slow, but they manage to paralyze the prey of the bushmen. Sometimes the hunters have to track the wounded animal for hours before it finally collapses.

Other chemists have previously tried to examine these poisons, but without the presence of any entomologists. Chaboo was convinced that the best method remains a biological systematic approach. This information will surely be of value to other scientific disciplines as well. The discovery that bushmen used evolved hunting methods for a long time points towards the fact that we still have a lot to find out about life on our planet, and mostly about the relation between humans and the surrounding environment.

Image Source: Jootix