We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.
Biology

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What are Some Extinct Predators of Humans?

Michael Anissimov
By
Updated: May 21, 2024

Contrary to popular belief in the developed world, there are quite a few animals that will gladly prey on susceptible humans. These include Saltwater Crocodiles, the grey wolf, Great White Shark, tigers, and several others. In the last two centuries, tens of thousands of humans have died from attacks by these animals, especially tigers and crocodiles. But, by and large, humans reign over these animals with tools like guns and traps. This was not always the case, as there are many extinct predators of humans that would have terrorized humanity as the giant crocodile Gustave today terrorizes the natives in places like Lake Tangianyika in Burundi.

This article will focus on three extinct likely predators of humans -- the Cave Hyena, Dire Wolf, and the giant Australian lizard Megalania. All these animals existed for over a million years and went extinct between 40,000 and 9,000 years ago, strongly suggesting that humans were the agent of extinction.

The Cave Hyena was an subspecies of the Spotted Hyena that lived in caves throughout Eurasia, including as far north as Beringia. Cave hyenas, being subspecies of modern hyena, were around the same size and intelligence, but on average they had stronger hindquarters, which initially caused them to be categorized as a separate species. Like modern hyenas, which occasionally prey on human children, the cave hyenas would have been predators of humans, and would have competed with them for caves. Caves with alternating cycles of Neanderthal and cave hyena bones have been discovered, and cave hyenas have been implicated as a delaying factor in human migration from Eurasia into North America.

The Dire Wolf was a larger relative of the Grey Wolf with larger teeth and sharper carnassals, which would have been used to sever bone, evidenced by extensive tooth wear on many Dire Wolf fossils. The Dire Wolf lived in the Americas, unlike the Grey Wolf which is native to Eurasia. The Dire Wolf had a smaller braincase than modern wolves, which suggested it was less intelligent. Its status among predators of humans is implicated by its evolutionary relationship to modern wolves, some of which consume humans when they get the chance. In ancient North America, Dire Wolves would have competed closely with humans for food and land.

Another of the likely predators of humans is the giant lizard Megalania, related to the modern Komodo Dragon but more than twice as large. Modern Komodo Dragons have been observed stalking humans and attacking children, making it likely that Megalania would have exhibited the same behavior. Megalania is the largest lizard that ever lived, reaching 7 m (23 ft) in length and weighing 620 kg (1,400 lb). Unlike mammalian predators, it would have had a slow metabolism, and was probably an ambush predator. In a long chase, humans would have surely gotten away, but if they didn't see what was coming, they would be bitten by the lizard's two-foot jaws, which were likely covered in poison like the jaws of the Komodo Dragon. This would have led to an agonizing death.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology...
Learn more
Share
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.