Study Finds Culprits To Ice Age Mammal Extinctions
November 2, 2011

Study Finds Culprits To Ice Age Mammal Extinctions

A research team involving over 40 academic institutions around the world is trying to tackle the question of what caused extinctions in the Ice Age.

The study found that the extinction of mammals like the woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth was not due to humans or climate change. 

The team found using ancient megafauna DNA, climate data and the archeological record that humans played no part in the extinction of the wooly rhino or the musk ox in Eurasia. 

The researchers believe these two mammals' demise could be entirely explained by climate change.

However, the experts say that humans could have had part of the responsibility for leading to the extinction of the wild horse and the bison in Siberia.

"Our findings put a final end to the single-cause theories of the Ice Age extinctions, and suggests that care should be taken in making generalizations not just regarding past and present species extinctions but also those of the future," Professor Eske Willerslev's Center for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum said in a statement. "The impacts of climate change and human encroachment on species extinctions really depends on which species we're looking at."

The authors of the study found no clear pattern in their data distinguishing species that went extinct from species that survived. 

"The fact that we couldn't pinpoint what patterns characterize extinct species - despite the large and varying amount of data analyzed - suggests that it will be challenging for experts to predict how existing mammals will respond to future global climate change," Eline Lorenzen, professor at the University of Copenhagen, said in a press release.

The study was published in the journal Nature.


Image Caption: The musk ox is one of the species studied by Beth Shapiro and her team. Credit: Beth Shapiro lab, Penn State


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