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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

Confrontational scavenging as a possible source for language and cooperation

Derek Bickerton1 and Eörs Szathmáry234*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Linguistics, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1890 East-West Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA

2 Institute of Biology, Eötvös University, 1 c Pázmány Péter, H-1117 Budapest, Hungary

3 Parmenides Centre for the Study of Thinking, Kirchplatz 1, D-82049 Pullach/Munich, Germany

4 Collegium Budapest (Institute for Advanced Study), Hungary

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Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:261  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-261

Published: 20 September 2011


The emergence of language and the high degree of cooperation found among humans seems to require more than a straightforward enhancement of primate traits. Some triggering episode unique to human ancestors was likely necessary. Here it is argued that confrontational scavenging was such an episode. Arguments for and against an established confrontational scavenging niche are discussed, as well as the probable effects of such a niche on language and co-operation. Finally, several possible directions for future research are suggested.