If you think that the impact on animal biodiversity by humans has basically only begun in the last few thousand years perhaps you should consider this new research. According to a new study in Ecology Letters, the process of limiting natural biodiversity, essentially extinction, caused by what can be considered our ancestors would have started millions of years ago.

According to researchers from various institutes in Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, some of the changes in biodiversity that have occurred in Africa over the last millions of years, changes of a lesser nature than, for example, those caused by climate change, are to be blamed on the first hominids. Specifically, researchers have found that several extinctions of large carnivores in East Africa would have been caused by our ancestors.

Analyzing various African fossils, researchers have in fact noticed drastic reductions in the number of different large carnivores, decreases that began about 4 million years ago. According to the researchers, just at this time, our ancestors would have begun to use new techniques to obtain food precisely to the detriment of large carnivores.

Among these techniques there was that of kleptoparasitism: Hominids simply stole the prey just killed by predators, which is not a novelty in the animal world (for example, lions can forcibly steal dead antelopes from cheetahs). With repeated actions of this kind, the great carnivores would have suffered consequences that over time would contribute to their extinction.

Among other things, it is for this reason that the great African carnivores have over time developed various techniques to defend their prey. Some, such as leopards, collect the prey and store it on the branches of trees.