Climate not to blame for the disappearance of large mammals

June 4th, 2014
Was it mankind or climate change that caused the extinction of a considerable number of large mammals about the time of the last Ice Age? Researchers at Aarhus University, Denmark, have carried out the first global analysis of the extinction of the large animals, and the conclusion is clear – humans are to blame.

"Our results strongly underline the fact that human expansion throughout the world has meant an enormous loss of large animals," says Postdoctoral Fellow Søren Faurby, Aarhus University.

Was it due to climate change?

For almost 50 years, scientists have been discussing what led to the mass extinction of large animals (also known as megafauna) during and immediately after the last Ice Age.

One of two leading theories states that the large animals became extinct as a result of climate change. There were significant climate changes, especially towards the end of the last Ice Age – just as there had been during previous Ice Ages – and this meant that many species no longer had the potential to find suitable habitats and they died out as a result. However, because the last Ice Age was just one in a long series of Ice Ages, it is puzzling that a corresponding extinction of large animals did not take place during the earlier ones.

Theory of overkill

The other theory concerning the extinction of the animals is 'overkill'. Modern man spread from Africa to all parts of the world during the course of a little more than the last 100,000 years. In simple terms, the overkill hypothesis states that modern man exterminated many of the large animal species on arrival in the new continents. This was either because their populations could not withstand human hunting, or for indirect reasons such as the loss of their prey, which were also hunted by humans.

First global mapping

In their study, the researchers produced the first global analysis and relatively fine-grained mapping of all the large mammals (with a body weight of at least 10 kg) that existed during the period 132,000

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

Chattanooga touts transformation into Gig City

A city once infamous for the smoke-belching foundries that blanketed its buildings and streets with a heavy layer of soot is turning to lightning-fast Internet speeds to try to transform itself into a vibrant ...

Sony's PlayStation 'gradually coming back'

Sony was still struggling Saturday to fully restore its online PlayStation system, three days after the Christmas day hack that also hit Microsoft's Xbox, reporting that services were "gradually coming back."

Uber broke Indian financial rules: central bank chief

India's central bank chief lashed out at Uber, already under fire over the alleged rape of a passenger, saying the US taxi-hailing firm violated the country's financial regulations by using an overseas payment ...

N. Korea suffers another Internet shutdown

North Korea suffered an Internet shutdown for at least two hours on Saturday, Chinese state-media and cyber experts said, after Pyongyang blamed Washington for an online blackout earlier this week.

Keep dogs and cats safe during winter

(HealthDay)—Winter can be tough on dogs and cats, but there are a number of safe and effective ways you can help them get through the cold season, an expert says.

Finding faster-than-light particles by weighing them

In a new paper accepted by the journal Astroparticle Physics, Robert Ehrlich, a recently retired physicist from George Mason University, claims that the neutrino is very likely a tachyon or faster-than-light par ...

Methane is leaking from permafrost offshore Siberia

Yamal Peninsula in Siberia has recently become world famous. Spectacular sinkholes, appeared as out of nowhere in the permafrost of the area, sparking the speculations of significant release of greenhouse ...