Skip to comments.Woolly mammoth extinction 'not linked to humans'
Posted on 08/18/2010 11:32:29 AM PDT by decimon
Woolly mammoths died out because of dwindling grasslands - rather than being hunted to extinction by humans, according to a Durham University study.
After the coldest phase of the last ice age 21,000 years ago, the research revealed, there was a dramatic decline in pasture on which the mammoths fed.
The woolly mammoth was once commonplace across many parts of Europe.
It retreated to northern Siberia about 14,000 years ago, where it finally died out approximately 4,000 years ago.
(Excerpt) Read more at bbc.co.uk ...
Well, according to 'Clan of the Cave Bear,' that infallible guide to Cro-Magnon Life, Love and Cuisine, one might try grinding it, mixing it with Hamburger Helper, and freezing patties for bar-B-qs later in the summer when all of the Clans gather on the steppes for a little flea market and make-out action.
The famous Beresovka mammoth, excavated by Otto Herz and E. W. Pfizenmayer and shipped back to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1902, first drew attention to the preserving properties of being quick-frozen when buttercups were found in its mouth and undigested food in its stomach. (Pfizenmayer, 1939) This was no gradual shift in temperatureit had to be both sudden and drastic!
Perhaps they were on the way down when we decided to make tools?
Early man didn’t focus on mega fauna other than to scavenge what remained.
Again I’ll pose: if the lethality of sticks and stone were not in question, how then did mega fauna survive the human onslought in other continents?
I can’t blame Bush-men ;) :p
I was a big fan of ERB and my favorite series was the Moon Men etc... Julian I-9
(mostly) From Science News. Dec 19, 2009.
North American Megafauna: 14,000 to 11,000 years ago.giant sloths; short faced bears; giant polar bears; California tapirs; peccaries; the American lion; giant condors; Miracinonyx ; saber-toothed cats like Xenosmilus, Smilodon and the scimitar cat; Homotherium; dire wolves; saiga; camelids such as two species of now extinct llamas and Camelops; at least two species of bison; stag-moose; the shrub-ox and Harlan's muskox; horses; mammoths and mastodons; and giant beavers as well as birds like teratorns.
Giant Kangaroo: 45,000 years ago: Australia. Within 5,000 years of human settlement, 90% of mammal species larger than a house cat, including the giant kangaroo, had gone extinct.
Large Caribbean Sloths: 4,400 years ago: Caribbean. By 800 years after human settlement, serval species of sloths died out.
Elephant Bird: 1,000 years ago. Madagascar. Within a millennium of humans’ arrival, the island's elephant birds, and other magafauna, were largely gone.
Moa: 500 years ago. New Zealand. Within two centuries of human settlement.
Dodo: 350 years ago. Mauritius. Within five or six decades of the island's first permanent settlement, the dodo was done.
I don't deny that humans were responsible for eliminating some species. The moa's extinction happened in historical times and humans were the cause. I don't dispute that humans hunted some of the larger animals but I have a real problem imagining that small bands of hunters could wipe out the entire range of megafauna. The matter remains a totally open question in my mind.
Many animals not used to humans show no fear of them, and thus were easy to eliminate before they could adapt.
As we have seen from the spread of invasive species (in Australia and elsewhere) a new species tends to throw things out of whack, and they make a huge impact within a short time.
Of course it isn't the sole explanation, and the data is far from conclusive. But the data seems to show that when humans showed up, a lot of mega-fauna soon disappeared.
And it doesn't take “bloodthirsty” or “short-sighted”; it just takes an easily exploited resource and hungry people.
“The spear points stuck into them seems to argue that they did focus on them other than to scavenge their remains.”
I’ll agree to disagree at this point.
The dual purpose use of a spear on large game: flensing.
It’s a fairy tale that either individual hunters or bands of hunters decided to sacrafice themselves or the safety of the hunting party to pursue dangerous game. I am often confronted by the anti-hunting community with similar presentations of “data”.
I imagine that (as tribes in africa had) they learned their lessons early and passed it on to generations: “if you mess with the mammoth, you’ll become a stain on the forest floor”
As far as the “list” provided, focusing on the mega-fauna and giant carnivores, they were on a decline without the help of man. I do believe that whatever the animals were feeding on, started to become scarce for a myriad of reasons.
Like Ruarke says: Use enough gun! our ancestors probably saw their buddy ‘Ogg’ get pummeled by a mammoth after a foolhardy assault.
My point: if large dangerous game was so easy to “take-out”, then why the heck did african and asian mega fauna survive when human population and technological advance was equal to or greater than the North American counterparts?
Maybe our North American ancstors were better at it?
A spear point that is stuck in and broken off might remain in the carcass.
A band of experienced humans with spears can take out any contemporaneous mega-fauna without much danger at all, even a mammoth.
Mega-fauna that developed alongside humans developed a fear of them. It is likely that much of the mega-fauna that went extinct at the same time humans showed up never developed that fear. We have seen the impact of an invasive species can take place rapidly, before any local animals have time to adapt.
Much of the mega-fauna on the list seemed to be doing just fine until humans showed up, then they were gone. Have any citations for them being in a long term decline BEFORE humans made the scene?
The numbers simply don't add up for me. I take your points but I doubt mammoths were ever "easily exploited" -- ditto dire wolves, sabre-toothed cats, cave bears etc. Ground sloths maybe. I like your Larson cartoon BTW.
While Occam's Razor might indicate your conclusion, in this case there's simply not enough real evidence either way to convince me. I need a whole lot more data about how many hunters there were etc.
But mammoths existed for thousands of years, the Clovis people showed up, We have found Clovis points in mammoth butts, then we find no more mammoths.
Did the Clovis people cause or contribute to the extinction of the mammoth?
We will never know.
But there is an obvious pattern of humans showing up, and lots of mega-fauna going extinct.
The evidence of that is hard to deny.
According to those who worship Mother Gaia in the O-So-Green-Movements. this was a great tragedy. They will make it go the other way 'round, next time.
But on that note I find it interesting that perhaps the greatest mass extinction of mega-fauna to accompany human habitation was in North America, where the indigenous inhabitants are usually credited with being ‘at one with nature’, and other such happy horse sh*t.
We learn more and more about the past every year. New ways of interpreting old evidence are continually being developed. Consider the plate tectonics revolution. Geological processes we now take for granted were laughed at prior to the 1960s. We now have a whole new and insightful way of looking at the Earth's past.
I think the megafauna extinction mystery will eventually be solved. My hunch is catastrophism of some sort or climate change or both, but my evidence is as sketchy as yours. I sincerely doubt small roving bands of stone-age hunters could push so many species into total extinction unless they were already hanging by a thread for some other reason. It's just as logical to consider that climate conditions that made human expansion into new areas possible were also somehow responsible for the extinctions.
Those were some really busy hunters. Sorry, not buying it. Did they hunt mammoths from time to time? I'm sure they did, but there's no way they were responsible for that butcher's bill you listed.
I would also point out that some of the other examples you listed were wiped out as a result of other non-indigenous animals that the people brought along with them. It turns out that flightless birds stuck on an island can't deal with dogs, rats and pigs eating them and their eggs.
I have no reason to doubt this but it's the first time I've seen it. Odd that. Do you have any theories of your own? Type of diet or the way the diet was handled by the digestive system???
North American indians were known to “hunt” buffalo by driving whole herds off cliffs. Not the most stewardly approach, certainly, but still quite effective. It may well have worked with many of the megafauna. They didn’t necessarily have to go speart-to-tusk, mano a mano with a brute weighing some few tons.
I would submit that it’s mainly a numbers game. There simply were never enough humans around to be a serious threat to any particular species ~even~ if their hunting techniques were wasteful.
All this “living in harmony with nature” BS... is just that. They didn’t have any special sense of “balance” with nature... they just didn’t have enough numbers to do much harm, nomatter what they did. They could hunt out one area and move along to new grounds pretty much perpetually.
I’ve got a beautiful Benchmade Gold-class knife with a woolly mammoth ivory handle.
It’s breathtaking. :-)