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To: Black Agnes
It was people. It's interesting to take a look at mega fauna worldwide, and place what happened to them.

Australia: Australia had several significant species of mega fauna. There was a wombat the size of a hippo. A nine foot tall kangaroo. And many others. They all died out 50,000--45,000 years ago. Human beings arrived in Australia about 50,000 years ago.

New Zealand: New Zealand had extremely large ostrich-like birds called moas as its mega fauna. If alive today, the largest moa woulds be twice the size of an African ostrich. Moas died out about 1,000 AD. Human beings arrived in New Zealand about 1,000 AD.

The Americas: Well, it has been posted above, but the mega fauna died out after the arrival of man, which is not really disputed.

Eurasia: Europe and Asia had mammoths and wooly rhinos, however, the genus homo has been living in Eurasia for 1/4 million years. The Indian elephant and rhinoceros still ives.

Africa: Africa still has most of its mega fauna. The genus homo evolved here. The case has been made, that as man evolved from skinny, hapless ape towards the world's most dangerous predator, the animals evolved along side man to build a natural fear of him. These seems to be the case with Africa/South Asia, which man has lived in far longer than anywhere else in the world. From there he spread nothward to Europe and Siberia. The mammoth and wolly rhinos home grounds (hmmm).

Since we have been homo spaiens sapiens, whenever we entered an entirely new area, the big meaty animals went extinct. I've also seen studies showing how only a moderately heavy predation of an animal species can have a sprial effect downward on that species survival, especially large animals that have few young that take years to reach adulthood. My vote still resides with (hungry) man the predator as the culprit.

25 posted on 06/05/2002 4:40:26 PM PDT by Alas Babylon!
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To: Alas Babylon!
Speaking of that, did you ever watch the Flintstones?

Remember the opening credits when Fred orders a side of ribs at the drive-in? Man, they were so big the whole car fell over! And Fred was not a small cave man! I rest my case.

27 posted on 06/05/2002 4:47:35 PM PDT by Alas Babylon!
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To: Alas Babylon!
Good summary of the correlation between megafauna extinction and the arrival of humans/human improvements in hunting techniques. Nice to see that someone else can connect the dots. :-)
32 posted on 06/05/2002 5:12:35 PM PDT by Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy
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To: Alas Babylon!; blam
Since we have been homo spaiens sapiens, whenever we entered an entirely new area, the big meaty animals went extinct. I've also seen studies showing how only a moderately heavy predation of an animal species can have a sprial effect downward on that species survival, especially large animals that have few young that take years to reach adulthood. My vote still resides with (hungry) man the predator as the culprit.

Ha ha ha. Africa gives the lie to this. You're arguing post hoc, ergo propter hoc. The more likely explanation is that the same thing that enabled people to travel into hitherto inaccessible areas was the same thing that made a big impact on the large fauna in those areas. One thing would be a sudden global cooling caused by massive volcanic eruptions. The ejecta would cause a global decrease in temperatures and sunlight which would both result in decreased plant growth. Ice-ages are characterized by decreased precipitation and a build-up of snow and ice resulting in lowered ocean levels, permitting travel into formerly inaccessible areas (and a need to do so in order to search for food). The places in the world that had mega-fauna also happen to be those that, for the most part, lie far to the north where effects of a downturn in the climate would be exacerbated by the latitude (ie, all across Siberia and North America). Australia has obviously undergone a major climatic change that turned a lot of it into desert. Much as most of North Africa and the Middle East used to be lush grasslands and home to mega-fauna. Now some of the last places on earth with mega-fauna are equatorial Africa and the Asian subcontinent. Remember that the woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros aren't necessarily inhabitants of continuously cold climes. They are (were) voracious plant eaters. Plants don't grow in continuously cold climes. Not enough of them to support the kind of tonnage mammoths/elephants need to survive. Besides, remember that in Siberia mammoths have been found quickfrozed with buttercups still in their mouths. This was not the doing of humans, unless you want to posit that humans moving into the area brought about a very sudden climate change.

The question is, have there been such worldwide downturns in climate due either to massive volcanic eruptions or to asteroid/cometary impact or close-calls? Yes, undoubtably, both during human history and prehistory. Do such downturns have a disproportionately great effect on very large animals? Also without a doubt. The disease/hunting hypothesis is itself an example of an opportunistic phenomenon--the need for devising a fundable thesis project or for carving out a new niche in academia. Besides, even if some common disease organisms were found in the remains of these large animals, they would only argue for a proximate cause of death. It's also well-known that animals that are stressed and starved are far more susceptible to infection than healthy animals. Massive stress and starvation would be (and has been) most easily accomplished by rapid climate downturns (such as happened in or around 540 AD, for example).
54 posted on 06/05/2002 6:48:00 PM PDT by aruanan
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