eastern grey kangaroo
An eastern grey kangaroo just before running away from a human reading aloud. Credit: Liana Y Zanette/Youtube

Kangaroos Fear This 'Super Predator' More Than Any Other Species

Spoiler: It's humans.

Australian wildlife like kangaroos and wallabies fear humans more than any other predator, according to a new study published by the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Researchers say their findings reinforce other research showing wildlife around the world seeing man as a "super predator."

"These results greatly expand the growing experimental evidence that wildlife worldwide perceive humans as the planet's most frightening predator," said Liana Zanette, one of the researchers and a biology professor at Canada's Western University, in a statement.

For the study, Zanette and her colleagues from the University of Tasmania monitored the Australian wildlife and how they responded to various noises. In addition to humans talking, the sounds included dogs barking, Tasmanian devils snarling, and some non-threatening animal sounds.

As a result of the study, researchers observed every species of marsupial demonstrating the same pattern. Videos shared alongside the research show kangaroos fleeing from the sound of a human's voice or staring inquisitively at other animal noises. By studying the pattern, researchers say the animals were twice as likely to flee after hearing a human than the next most frightening predator.

Zanette added that as humans, we may not think of ourselves as a "major predator, let alone the most dangerous," wild animals "recognize us for what we are." She explained that animals' fear of humans can have "dramatic ecological consequences." She said that fear in wildlife can reduce some animal populations as well as cause "cascading impacts on multiple species throughout entire landscapes."

Other research shows humans as 'super predators"

In the case of the Australian marsupials, Zanette explained that the animals probably haven't evolved to fear large mammalian predators like dogs. However, global surveys show that humans kill prey at much higher rates than other predators. "The profound fear of humans being revealed in wildlife everywhere is wholly consistent with humanity's unique lethality," she said.

In the past, Zanette shared videos showing how animals behave to the sound of humans and other noise. Videos show lions noticing but not running from the sound of gunfire, rhinos sauntering away from the sound of lions, elephants abandoning a water hole after hearing humans, deer fleeing from the sound of humans but not coyotes or wolves. In every instance, animals run from the sound of humans.