Why Lions and Tigers Die Young

18629460_303Lions don’t live long (10-14 years). Same is true of tigers (8-10 years). And wolves (6-8 years). As a general rule, terrestrial apex predators tend to have short life spans. This is especially true of those with fast metabolisms. A full-grown reticulated python can go without food for over a year if need be, whilst a tiger can go without food for no more than two or three weeks. Has it always been like this? I doubt it. There have probably been long-lived apex predators who were exceptionally effective and efficient hunters. Such is the nature of evolution by natural selection: given enough time, sooner or later, almost everything happens. If we knew all there was to know about the history of life, I suspect that we’d discover that super predators of this stamp have indeed roamed the Earth from time to time; and, whenever they have, my guess is that they’ve been responsible for mass extinctions and the collapse of entire ecosystems. There simply isn’t a terrestrial ecosystem in the world that can support an apex predator that has lots of babies, a high metabolism, and a long life. Like a gas fire that extinguishes itself by sucking all of the air out of the room, a tiger with an average life span of 80 would wreak havoc on its environment. But what if a long-lived animal from the middle of the food chain bootstrapped its way to the top via tools and technology? Would its success lead to mass extinctions and the collapse of entire ecosystems? Go back to the beginning. Think about it. Take, if you like, all day, tiger.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2017)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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