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A Brief History Of The Extintion Of Large Pleistocene Mammals

1323 words - 6 pages

Many of the world`s scientists believe we are in the middle of another great extinction event. Such extinctions have happened periodically throughout Earths history of life. Most infamously is the K-T (Cretaceous Tertiary) event, which killed of our beloved dinosaurs. Pacing back in time, there were five known events; one at the Triassic (which may have gave way to the rise of the dinosaurs), another at the end of the Permian that produced a vanishing of species (approx 95%) never equaled until today as some will argue. Yet still other extinctions, occurred during the end of the Devonian and Ordovician periods. These past events have happened "naturally" to the history of life on the planet. Root causes taking center stage are large comet or asteroid impacts, deadly disease transversing the continents and huge amounts of volcanism; all in combination with or in addition to, global climate change of the planet. The extinction event of today however is different, as many believe homo sapiens are the main culprit, unfortunately this is not our first time at bat on the extinction mound. The disappearance of the mega-fauna during the late Pleistocene may have been our first go at eradicating entire species of animals from the planet. However, questions arise, did we act alone or with an outside accomplice? Did we even play a part or did nature simply run its course? As far as we know, this is the first time in Earth's history, a single species is responsible for the complete vanishing of many others.
One of the greatest debates among scientist today is the root cause of the Pleistocene Megafauna extinction. Human hunting tops the list with certain disciplines of science, archeologist for example who study human prehistory (the Clovis people for example), site that humans may have contributed to the extinction by accelerating the process in combination with climate change already underway around the globe. In North America that correlation of climate and human interaction with fauna is more evident and is well supported by the evidence (Barnosky, Koch, Feranec, Wing, Shabel, 2004). However larger more northern areas (such as Alaska) show that the megafauna animals such as Mammoths and Iris deer, may have held out only a bit longer as accounts suggest that at least 15 species became extinct during the beginning of the Younger Dryas climate event (about 11,000 years ago). Other large fauna also declined in great numbers as climate change impacted the land as the number of humans in the more inhospitable northern land was far less than their occupancy in southern latitudes (Barnosky et al., 2004). Interestingly archaeological evidence of the horse and Mammoth populations in Alaska (with human presence) suggest a coexistence between some of the mega fauna and humans about 12 thousand years ago and mammoths perishing from the area some 500 years later, with much longer periods of coexistence in Asia and Europe, before the mammoths disappeared altogether...

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