By Alan Rabinowitz
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Extra info for An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar
5 million years ago), animals had open pathways into new areas. These movements enabled the felids to rapidly evolve into one of the earth’s most successful carnivore families, inhabiting all the continents except Antarctica. The extreme climatic shifts taking place during this period were unforgiving. Species that did not migrate or that got trapped in refugia either adapted or went extinct. During at least 17 glacialinterglacial cycles of the Pleistocene, many of the biggest and strongest of the carnivores, including at least 80 percent of the known large-bodied felids at the time throughout different regions of the world, would go extinct.
The transition from scavenging kills made by other predators to the development of increasingly effective hunting implements and tools forced an increase in the physical and mental dexterity of hominids. Planning hunts involved rational and conceptual thought. Cooperative hunting brought together unrelated individuals, expanding the gene pool for potential mates. Food sharing allowed for increased group sizes and more socialization. Humans learned to use fires to enhance grazing lands and optimize hunting as early as 10,000 years ago, though some believe that the use of fire dates back more than 100,000 years.
As agricultural practices and tool development became more sophisticated, people learned to manipulate nature to their advantage. Fire was used intentionally to clear large areas of forest understory and thus facilitate the growth of certain plants, resulting in the pre-Columbian savannas of North America. Early irrigation systems were developed by diverting streams, creating canals and water reservoirs. Digging and plowing implements were created. On hilly or sloped terrain, the practice of terracing was eventually used to prevent erosion and water runoff.
An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz