New actualistic data on the ecology and energetics of hominin scavenging opportunities.
For decades, the 'hunting-scavenging debate' has been an important research focus in Plio-Pleistocene hominin behavioral ecology. Here I present new data on potential scavenging opportunities from fresh carnivore kills on a conservancy in central Kenya. This ecosystem is dominated by felids (mainly lions) and has a different carnivore guild than in many earlier studies of scavenging opportunities that took place in areas such as Ngorongoro and Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya, where lions face high levels of inter-specific competition from bone-crunching hyenas. I found that while scavenging opportunities vary among carcasses, most carcasses retained some scavengeable resources. Excluding within-bone resources, even the scavengeable meat on 'defleshed' larger sized prey carcasses is usually substantial enough to meet the total daily caloric requirements of at least one adult male Homo erectus individual. I argue, as others have before me, that scavenging opportunities in a particular ecosystem will vary in part due to carnivore taxon, density and guild composition; prey size, biomass and community structure; and habitat (e.g., vegetation, physiography). We should expect variability in scavenging opportunities in different locales and should focus our research efforts on identifying which variables condition these differences in order to make our findings applicable to the diversity of ecological settings characterizing the past.