When you think about nature's most dominant predators, sharks, tigers and lions might come to mind.
But a new study says one animal above all others is the world's most efficient predator: humans.
The study concluded that humans are a unique "super-predator" that hunts and kills other species many times more efficiently than the other top predators both on land and sea.
Our ruthless efficiency in hunting and fishing was laid bare in a detailed survey of 2,125 species of terrestrial and marine predators around the world, published in the journal Science.
The researchers estimate that ocean fishing has resulted in humans exploiting adult fish populations at about 14 times the rate of other marine predators, while humans have hunted and killed adult land animals at around nine times the rate of other animal predators, reports The Independent.
Humans hunt adult prey
The study revealed that human hunting and fishing is qualitatively different to the predatory behaviour shown by other species.
"Whereas predators primarily target the juveniles or 'reproductive interest' of populations, humans draw down on the 'reproductive capital' by exploiting adult prey," said Tom Reimchen, professor of biology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.
The study found that humans show another remarkable hunting trait by their ability to target other top predators as potential prey, especially in the sea where the decimation of top carnivores such as sharks, tuna fish and marlin has fundamentally changed the balance of some marine ecosystems.