Coevolution of Dangers from Humans and Defences Against Them

Humans have always faced dangers from both their environment and from other humans. The dangers have evolved to new forms as the world has become increasingly interconnected and populated. Humans have developed defensive strategies to protect themselves from these dangers. This coevolution is an ongoing cycle, with each new danger inspiring new defences and vice versa.

One example of this coevolution of dangers and defences is the development of cyber security. Hackers have developed new and more sophisticated ways of attacking computers and networks as the internet has become a more critical part of everyday life.

Coevolution of Dangers from Humans and Defences Against Them

Humans have produced new dangers to other species as they have developed new tools and extended their range, while those species have evolved new defences to defend themselves. The connection between predators and prey is one illustration of this coevolutionary process. Many species evolved quicker sprinting rates or more effective camouflage to escape discovery as humans developed more complex hunting tools and methods, such as spears and traps. Some species have evolved chemical defences such as venom or noxious odours to discourage predators.

The connection between people and infectious diseases is another illustration of coevolution. Human advancements in agriculture and urbanisation have produced new possibilities for disease transmission between people and other creatures. Humans have created medical technologies and public health measures to combat illness transmission, while pathogens have evolved new tactics to circumvent these defences. The coevolution of human threats and defences continuously influences interactions between humans and other species. This process will likely continue as humans change the environment and bring new tools, resulting in new adaptations and counter-adaptations in the natural world.

Use of Cost-Inflicting Strategies as Defence Against Humans Dangers

Assaults on Status

One cost-infliction strategy is to harm a rival's image, limiting the rival's access to tangible resources and mates. Given the significance of status, selection most likely produced adaptations for hierarchical status bargaining. An individual in a group cannot advance in a status hierarchy without displacing someone above, relegating that person to a lesser place than he or she previously held, and incurring the costs associated with status loss. According to research conducted across the lifespan, males place a higher value on winning, and women place a higher value on preserving social harmony.

Several adaptations may have developed to combat the threat of prestige loss induced by rivals' cost-inflicting tactics. First, people should be equipped to continuously monitor their place in a status hierarchy and their nearest competitors. Individuals should be encouraged to collect information about their nearest competitors' strengths and flaws to influence future status defence tactics. Strategic alliance formation that will increase an individual's grasp on a place in a status hierarchy can assist in defending against status attacks from others.

Offensive strategies, such as competitor derogation, can be used to attack the status of those most likely to question an individual's place in the future, thereby preventing a status conflict. Competitor derogation may also be a successful tactic following a status loss. Using social status as a defence mechanism against human dangers is ineffective and may exacerbate the situation.

Theft and Cheating

A second cost-infliction technique that can be used to obtain an edge in resource rivalry is to steal the resources or cheat rivals out of them. A prohibitive weapon can be taken and used to harm the proprietor. Valuable land can be encroached upon, and its flora, water, refuge, and animals can be exploited. Individuals may have developed adaptations that drive them to protect valuable things, hide them, or make valuable goods appear less desirable to competitors to reduce the danger of material resource thievery. They may also have developed adaptations to identify competitors who would deceive them. Other primate species have been shown to deceive competitors about the position of a valuable resource, such as food.

When a partner is endangered rather than a material thing, a study showed that men and women use methods ranging from caution to aggression to protect their relationships. Men's partner poacher defence strategies were discovered to be distinct from women's, fuelled by jealousy, an emotion missing in settings of material resource stealing. Men are more likely than women to hide partners, flaunt resources, and turn to threats and aggression, particularly against competitors.

Men are also more likely to use surrender and self-abasement techniques, grovelling, or offering their partners anything to keep them. Women are more likely to improve their looks and make their partners envious by displaying their appeal by demonstrating that they have other breeding possibilities.


Injuring rivals is a third method for inflicting costs on them. Healthy people can fight more successfully than their injured opponents. Rivals may be more likely to avoid or withdraw from rivalry with people who have previously harmed them. Individuals capable of causing more injuries on their opponents than their opponents to impose on them may develop a reputation for being challenging to abuse. This reputation may shield people from violent confrontations and provide more straightforward access to resources with less opposition from competitors.

The most effective approach for avoiding aggressive confrontations that can result in injuries is to avoid them entirely. Human adaptations to create coalitions may provide one form of protection against aggressive competitors because it is simpler to target an individual than a group. Adaptations that lead to avoiding situations likely to make a person the subject of aggression may provide another type of defence against injury. Humans may also have adaptations that allow them to try to reason with an assailant, emphasising the costs of their aggressive behaviour or proposing another potential solution to the dispute.


The coevolution of dangers from humans and the defences against them is an ongoing process that has shaped human interactions with the natural world. From predator-prey relationships to cyber security, humans have developed adaptive strategies to protect themselves from evolving threats.

Cost-inflicting strategies, such as assault on status, theft and cheating, and violence, are some ways humans have defended themselves. However, the effectiveness of these strategies is debatable and may even exacerbate the situation.

Updated on: 19-Apr-2023


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