Humans, Not Climate Change, To Blame For Ice Age Animal ExtinctionOur last glacial period lasted from about 115,000-12,500 years ago. By the end, 177 large mammal species had gone extinct. There has been considerable debate over the last half century regarding what caused the loss of these animals, including saber-tooth cats, mastadons, and giant sloths. While many have argued that these animals simply weren’t able to adapt to the warmer climate, others blame human activity. A new study led by Jens-Christian Svenning of Aarhus University has strongly suggested that humans are squarely responsible for the disappearance of megafauna during the last 100,000 years. The results have been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
For this study, the researchers focused on megafauna, which is categorized as animals weighing at least 10 kg (22 lbs) that lived in the last 132,000 years. They also identified the regions where these animals lived, comparing the data with climate and human activity. While there are invariably going to be animals lost after a great climate change such as the ending of an ice age, the loss of megafauna that followed the most recent glacial event is an anomaly when compared to the ending of other ice ages.
“Our results strongly underline the fact that human expansion throughout the world has meant an enormous loss of large animals,” co-author Søren Faurby said in a press release.