Human Impact on Megafauna Extinction Revealed in New Study

In a study from Denmark’s, Aarhus University ECONOVO center, researchers reveal strong ties that support the argument that humans hunting played a huge role in wiping out megafauna in the last 50 000 years. This discovery casts doubt on previous assumptions that climate shift was the main cause of these extinctions and opens a new page in the study of the interactions between early human beings and prehistoric ecosystems.

Extinction Crisis: Human vs Climate influence

It proves that at least 161 species of megafauna, where mammoths, mastodons and giant sloths among them, died out because of the people and their influence, including hunting. Prehistoric megaherbivores were 57 while currently to them are only 11 and these remaining species are also endangered.

Megafauna skeletons in the Museum at La Brea Tar Pits LA DSC
Bill Abbott, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Climate Change’s Lesser Role

The late Pleistocene epoch stretching from 130,000 to 11,000 years ago involved the major climatic shifts which impacted the world’s plant and animal populations. However these changes were affecting more the large animals especially the megafauna, without affecting the major mass extinction. This was not the case with previous ice ages and interglacials where human influences were not as catastrophic as this one to the megafauna.

Evidence of Human Hunting

Despite the great differences in climate, factors related to humans other than climate alter have been supported by archaeological evidence as having played roles in driving megafauna to extinction. Studying traps meant for large animals, and isotopic research on human kinships and relics, imply that early man killed and ate megafauna. These hunting practices were particularly efficient, pointing out large body size of mammals, which were sensitive because of long gestation period and slow rates of maturity.

Global Extinction Patterns

Non-surprisingly, the megafauna species went extinct in different ecosystems including tropical rain forests and artic regions. These extinctions occurred when anatomically modern humans evolved to Neanderthals and other creatures or when they evolved from them, definitely linking the megafaunas’ demise to the anatomically modern humans.

Expert Perspectives

Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, lead author of the study, underscores the study’s significance in understanding Earth’s ecological history: ‘Human hunting finds, for the first time, that climate change was not the key factor contributing to the extinction of megafauna species over the last 50 millennia,’ study author Dr Michael Wesley said.

The conclusions made in the context of this study are groundbreaking for the comprehension of the megafauna extinctions, stressing on the human impact as the primary cause of a significant decrease in the Earth’s biosphere’s diversity. Thus, based on these historical interactions between people and animals, one can see the need to implement these observations in today’s approaches to conservation in order to save the existent large species and their habitats.

More studies are required for one to fully understand effects of human activities on the incident ecosystems and the ancient diversity. Thus, continuing the protection and management of today’s megafauna species and their habitats from human impacts and climate change is imperative.

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