explaining extinction of ice-age Megabeasts?

Dec 2009
918
#1
According to the HC documentary Mankind - the story of Us (including the bonus interviews on disc 1), by 8-10Ka, when humans had populated the planet completely, most major megabeasts went extinct, requiring radical readjustments, to continue acquiring calories. Ipso facto, megabeasts only survived, where humans weren't, i.e. the impression is given, that (simplistically stated) when humans lived nowhere but Africa, then the megabeasts lived everywhere else; and as humans expanded out of Africa, they literally consumed those populations of megabeasts, continuously encroaching upon those populations, one hill or valley at a time, until none were left alive, i.e. megabeast populations only survived, when their ranges included "safe zones" then beyond the ready reach of emerging modern humans. Such seems to cogently account for post-ice-age mass-extinctions of mega-beasts, with a gradual-not-so-sudden sort of explanation, i.e. the extinctions had been in progress, the entire time, since the emergence of modern humans from Africa circa 70Ka.

(Tangentially, speculatively, perhaps wolves were attracted to human habitation sites, e.g. European caves as depicted in the documentary, for fire's warmth in wintery ice-age climatic conditions (as well as for food scraps from such sites) ?)
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,538
#2
My own opinion is that climate change had probably put some of these species on the precipice of extinction prior to the arrival of man, and our ancestors shoved them over the edge.

Rather than the mass extinctions being an either/or scenario between man and climate change, it was probably a one-two punch.
 
Sep 2008
1,855
Halicarnassus, 353BC
#3
This is a great topic - thanks Widdekind for opening up a new subject area that hasn't been touched much in recent posts.

From what I've seen, human habitation was undoubtedly responsible for the death of the mega beasts. The issues in antiquity were the same as they are in many emerging countries today: people take more and more land to build farms. They cut down trees, destroying the forest habitat for many species including both predator and prey. They then plant crops across the land, and often use it to rear livestock. If a predator animal such as a 'megabeast', a lion, or even a wolf encroaches on that land or tries to prey on the human's domesticated cattle, the humans will hunt down that predator and drive it to extinction.

Look at the ancient distribution of species such as tiger, lion, cheetah and others - before human civilisations expanded, those animals had a range across much of Africa and the Eurasian landmass. Now, they are restricted largely to Africa and a few scraps in India, where they are constantly pressured by human expansion.

The other side is that even before agriculture, human hunter bands were driving mass extinctions. We know from archaeology that humans hunted the mammoths and used fire to drive them off cliffs. In North America, there was a huge range of large animals including several species of camel, horses and many other animals, all of which were hunted to extinction by humans.
 
Nov 2011
4,713
Ohio, USA
#4
My own opinion is that climate change had probably put some of these species on the precipice of extinction prior to the arrival of man, and our ancestors shoved them over the edge.

Rather than the mass extinctions being an either/or scenario between man and climate change, it was probably a one-two punch.
Very much so. You could go on arguing endlessly about which was more decisive though, and the debate continues to this day.
 

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,745
#5
Humanity being the culprit is fairly logical. It is likely that these animals evolved not to fear humans which made them easy targets - just like the Great Auk in more recent times; they were hunted to extinction by traders between Europe and North America because they had no fear of humans... And sailors get hungry.
 

Lowell2

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,541
California
#10
possibly one of the reasons humans were able to off mammoth, etc and Neanderthals weren't was the employment of dogs Domestication of dogs may explain large numbers of dead mammoths | Penn State University
Goyet cave canids have been identified as dogs Goyet Cave (Belgium) - Evidence for Early Dog Domestication. From what I've been able to find, all domestication of dogs is associated with H. Sapiens and none with H. Neanderthal (or H.S. Neanderthal). Dogs/wolves are actually an Artic species that adapted to warmer climes. They take the cold much better than they take the heat. It may be that the mammoth and mastodon weren't as adaptable as the modern elephant to climate change -- but the elephant did in fact vanish from large areas of it's previous range (including some pygmy elephants on Mediterranean islands) so it may be that the elephant survived primarily because remnants were located in areas of fairly low human population and relatively ideal environment. Ditto the brown bear ([ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly_bear]Grizzly bear - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]).

By off, I mean exterminate. Neanderthal clearly hunted mammoth and other mega beasts.
 
Last edited:

Similar History Discussions