Megafauna Extinction Driven By Climate Change

Megafauna Extinction Driven By Climate Change

More than 12,000 years ago, South America was dominated by sabre-toothed cats, sloths, giant bears and other large animals, or “megafauna.” They lived happily alongside humans for close to 3,000 years. Suddenly, the populations of these amazing creatures started declining about 12,300 years ago, and they disappeared within a short time-frame of just 300 years towards the end of the last Ice Age.

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Scientists challenge the Blitzkrieg theory of megafauna extinction

What drove them to extinction? Previously, there was this “Blitzkrieg” theory that suggested humans moved to South America in a “Blitzkrieg” way and hunted the megafauna into extinction. But a new study published in the journal Science Advances reveals that the extinction was driven mainly by climate change.  Scientists led by Professor Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide studied ancient DNA from carbon-dated fossils found at sites across South America to trace the genetic history of the populations.

Scientists found that the megafauna went extinct about 12,300 years ago. However, humans had begun spreading across the Americas more than 15,000 years ago. Human fossils recovered from Monte Verde near Patagonia were 14,600 years old. So, the giant animals lived with humans for close to 3,000 years where nothing happens, Professor Cooper told the ABC News.

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The role of humans can’t be ruled out

The international team of scientists also concluded that the megafauna extinction coincided with rapidly rising temperatures. The climate in South America started warming rapidly 12,300 years ago after a prolonged cold period. The warming caused changes in vegetation with more forests and rainfall that were not suitable habitats for giant beasts.

However, it is too early to rule out the possibility of human involvement considering the animals went extinction in a surprisingly short time-span of just 300 years. It’s possible that humans became more active as the climate warmed, leading to a steep rise in human population and hunting. Scientists said more evidence was needed to understand the role of humans at the time.

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  1. When Europeans arrived in the Americas they brought diseases that killed huge numbers of the native inhabitants. We all agree on that. It seems to me then that the simplest explanation for the Ice Age die off of the North American megafauna wasn’t due to over-hunting or climate change, but diseases carried by the animals that also crossed over from Eurasia. Even today many populations of wild North American mammals remain very susceptible to a range of lethal diseases. Why is this rather obvious theory never discussed?

  2. There was some sort of cataclysmic event that occurred between 10 and 13 thousand years ago, that wiped out not only the megafauna, but also the humans that had lived in the same area. The entire clovis culture was wiped out at the same time. During the ice age, humans had migrated from the iberian peninsula (currently Spain), along the ice age ice sheet to the american east coast and spread west from there, taking their clovis culture with them (from east to west). After they were wiped out, future waves of humans came across the land bridge from asia, where there was no clovis culture. No clovis pointed arrow heads appeared after that time in the archeological record as they spread from east to west. The clovis culture came from europe, and was evident in the americas until it was wiped out.

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