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The Info List - Quaternary Extinction Event


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The Quaternary period saw the extinctions of numerous predominantly larger, especially megafaunal , species, many of which occurred during the transition from the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
to the Holocene
Holocene
epoch. However, this extinction wave did not stop at the end of the Pleistocene, but continued, especially on isolated islands, in human-caused extinctions , although there is debate as to whether these should be considered separate events or part of the same event. Among the main causes hypothesized by paleontologists are overkill by the widespread appearance of humans and natural climate change . A notable human presence first appeared during the Middle Pleistocene
Pleistocene
and afterwards migrated to many regions of the world during the Late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
and Holocene. A variant of the former possibility is the second-order predation hypothesis, which focuses more on the indirect damage caused by overcompetition with nonhuman predators. Recent studies have tended to favor the human-overkill theory.

CONTENTS

* 1 Pleistocene
Pleistocene
or Ice Age extinction event

* 1.1 Africa
Africa
and Asia
Asia
* 1.2 Pacific ( Australasia
Australasia
and Oceania) * 1.3 Europe
Europe
and Northern Eurasia
Eurasia
* 1.4 North America
North America
and the Caribbean * 1.5 South America
South America

* 2 Later extinctions

* 3 Hunting hypothesis

* 3.1 Overkill hypothesis * 3.2 Objections to the hunting hypothesis

* 4 Climate change
Climate change
hypothesis

* 4.1 Increased temperature * 4.2 Arguments against the temperature hypothesis

* 4.3 Increased continentality affects vegetation in time or space

* 4.3.1 Vegetation changes: geographic * 4.3.2 Rainfall changes: time

* 4.4 Arguments against the continentality hypotheses

* 5 Arguments against both climate change and overkill

* 6 Hyperdisease hypothesis

* 6.1 Theory * 6.2 Arguments against the hyperdisease hypothesis

* 7 Second-order predation

* 7.1 Scenario * 7.2 Support * 7.3 Second-order predation and other theories * 7.4 Arguments against the second-order predation hypothesis * 7.5 Arguments against the second-order predation plus climate hypothesis

* 8 Comet hypothesis

* 8.1 Arguments against the comet hypothesis

* 9 See also * 10 References

* 11 External links

* 11.1 Hyperdisease hypothesis * 11.2 Second-order predation * 11.3 Other links

PLEISTOCENE OR ICE AGE EXTINCTION EVENT

See also: Timeline of extinctions in the Holocene
Holocene

The Late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
extinction event saw the extinction of many mammals weighing more than 40 kg. The proportional rate of megafauna extinctions is incrementally bigger the larger the migratory distance from Africa.

* In Subsaharan Africa
Subsaharan Africa
, 16%, or 8 of 50 genera of mammalian megafauna was driven to extinction * In Asia
Asia
, 52%, or 24 of 46 * In Europe
Europe
, 59%, or 23 of 39 * In Australasia
Australasia
, 71%, or 19 of 27 * In North America
North America
, 74%, or 45 of 61 * In South America
South America
, as much as 82%, or 58 of 71

The extinctions in the Americas
Americas
entailed the elimination of all the larger (over 1000 kg) mammalian species of South American origin, including those that had migrated north in the Great American Interchange . Only in the continents of Australia, North America, and South America
South America
did the extinction occur at family taxonomic levels or higher.

The proportional rate of megafauna extinctions being incrementally bigger the larger the migratory distance from Africa
Africa
might be related to non-African megafauna and Homo sapiens sapiens (anatomically modern humans) not having evolved as species alongside each other.

For their part specifically, Australia, North America
North America
and South America, which respectively had the highest incremental extinction rates, had no known native species of Hominoidea (apes) at all, much less species of Hominidae
Hominidae
(greater apes), and especially not native species of the Homo
Homo
subgroup (the genus Homo
Homo
comprises the species Homo
Homo
sapiens , which includes modern humans, as well as several extinct species classified as ancestral to or closely related to modern humans; all indigenous human groups are ultimately descendants of anatomically modern humans recently migrated out of Africa
Africa
in anthropological time scale ).

The increased rate of extinction mirrors the sequential pattern of the migration of anatomically modern humans. The further away from Africa, the more recently the area has been inhabited by humans, and the less time the environments (including its megafauna) had had to accustomize to human arrival and vice versa.

There is no evidence of megafaunal extinctions at the height of the Last Glacial Maximum
Last Glacial Maximum
, indicating that increasing cold and glaciation were not factors. There are three main hypotheses concerning the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
extinction:

* The animals died off due to climate change associated with the advance and retreat of major ice caps or ice sheets . * The animals were exterminated by humans: the "prehistoric overkill hypothesis" (Martin, 1967). * The extinction of the woolly mammoth (by whatever cause, perhaps by humans) changed the extensive grasslands to birch forests, and subsequent forest fires then changed the climate. We now know that immediately after the extinction of the mammoth, birch forests replaced the grasslands and that an era of significant fire began.

There are some inconsistencies between the current available data and the prehistoric overkill hypothesis. For instance, there are ambiguities around the timing of sudden extinctions of Australian megafauna . Biologists note that comparable extinctions have not occurred in Africa
Africa
and South or Southeast Asia
Asia
, where the fauna evolved with hominids. Post-glacial megafaunal extinctions in Africa have been spaced over a longer interval.

Evidence supporting the prehistoric overkill hypothesis includes the persistence of certain island megafauna for several millennia past the disappearance of their continental cousins. Ground sloths survived on the Antilles
Antilles
long after North and South American ground sloths were extinct. The later disappearance of the island species correlates with the later colonization of these islands by humans. Similarly, dwarf woolly mammoths died out on remote Wrangel Island 1,000 years after their extinction on the mainland. Steller\'s sea cows also persisted in seas off the isolated and uninhabited Commander Islands
Commander Islands
for thousands of years after they had vanished from the continental shores of the north Pacific.

Alternative hypotheses to the theory of human responsibility include climate change associated with the last glacial period and the Younger Dryas event , as well as Tollmann\'s hypothetical bolide , which claim that the extinctions resulted from bolide impact(s). Such a scenario has been proposed as a contributing cause of the 1,300-year cold period known as the Younger Dryas
Younger Dryas
stadial. This impact extinction hypothesis is still in debate due to the exacting field techniques required to extract minuscule particles of extraterrestrial impact markers such as iridium at a high resolution from very thin strata in a repeatable fashion, as is necessary to conclusively distinguish the event peak from the local background level of the marker. The debate seems to be exacerbated by infighting between the Uniformitarianism camp and the Catastrophism camp. The Chalicothere vanished in the early Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Eucladoceros cranium fossil, Museo di Paleontologia di Firenze Steppe
Steppe
Mammoth
Mammoth
(Mammuthus trogontherii ) dimensions Megantereon model. A Pachycrocuta bevirostris reconstruction The modern Jaguar
Jaguar
( Panthera
Panthera
onca), although now restricted to the Americas, originated in Asia, before colonising both sides of Beringia
Beringia
- Europe
Europe
in the form of the European jaguar , and in the Americas
Americas
as the predecessors of today's species. Amphicyon
Amphicyon
reconstruction. Paranthropus robustus family reconstruction, by Mauricio Antón . Homotherium
Homotherium
restoration- although Homotherium
Homotherium
were extirpated in Africa
Africa
1.5 mya , they had spread throughout Eurasia
Eurasia
and the Americas
Americas
, remaining in South America at least until the Middle Pleistocene
Pleistocene
, and perishing in all other continents during the late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
. Pelagornis sandersi comparison with the Andean condor
Andean condor
(Vultur gryphus) and the Wandering albatross
Wandering albatross
(Diomeda exulans) Steppe bison (Bison priscus ) cave art. Reconstructions of 3 species of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
bovid genus Pelorovis
Pelorovis
In the back is P. oldowayensis. Lying in front of it is P. turkanensis, with a horn-span of around 3 to 4 meters from tip to tip. Kneeling is the water buffalo-like P. antiquus. Life reconstruction of the extinct Megaloceros A woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) from a late Pleistocene landscape in northern Spain
Spain
. A cave hyena (Crocuta crocuta spelea) reconstruction. Megalochelys atlas reconstruction Musk oxen , present from Spain
Spain
to Greenland
Greenland
during the late Pleistocene, were completely extirpated in Eurasia
Eurasia
by the subatlantic Holocene- recent reintroductions from the Nearctic have substantiated their range throughout the Arctic
Arctic
. Wall drawing in the cave Les Combarelles in Dordogne
Dordogne
(wild horse , cave bear , mammoth , cave lion ). Diprotodon became extinct around 50,000 years ago.

AFRICA AND ASIA

See also: List of African animals extinct in the Holocene
Holocene
and List of Asian animals extinct in the Holocene
Holocene

The Old World
Old World
tropics have been relatively spared by Pleistocene extinctions. Africa
Africa
and southern Asia
Asia
are the only regions that have terrestrial mammals weighing over 1000 kg today. However, during the early, middle and late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
some large animal forms disappeared from these regions without being replaced by comparable successor species. Climate change
Climate change
has been cited as most likely causing the extinctions in Southeast Asia
Asia
. Procoptodon goliath reconstruction Thylacoleo carnifex rock art Megalania priscus skeleton, Melbourne Museum Reconstruction of the Late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
mekosuchine crocodile , Mekosuchus inexpectans, of prehistoric Fiji
Fiji
. Comparison of the extinct Giant Fijian Iguana, Lapitiguana impensa , and two Viti Levu Giant Pigeons, Natunaornis gigoura , from prehistoric Fiji
Fiji
. The American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) was one of four species of flamingo present in Australia
Australia
in the Quaternary , all of which are now either extinct or extirpated. Australia
Australia
is now the only continent in the world without flamingoes . A reconstruction of normative vegetation cover at the Last Glacial Maximum
Last Glacial Maximum
, circa 18,000 years ago , based on fossil pollen samples recovered from lake and bog sediments .

Megafauna
Megafauna
that disappeared in Africa
Africa
or Asia
Asia
during the Pleistocene include:

* Various giraffids (e.g. Giraffa jumae
Giraffa jumae
; Giraffa extirpated in Asia during the Middle Pleistocene
Pleistocene
) * Paracamelus
Paracamelus
* Camelus moreli * Soergelia * Damalops
Damalops
* Parmularius * Various Gazella sp. (e.g. Gazella psolea ) * Makapania * Dubois’ antelope (Dubosia santeng) * Bos acutifrons * Chalicotheres (e.g. Ancylotherium , Nestoritherium ) * A few species of warthog such as Metridiochoerus * Kolpochoerus * Trogontherium
Trogontherium
* Hippopotamus gorgops (a giant hippopotamus) * Serengetilagus

* Various members of Equidae
Equidae

* Equus stenonis * Eurygnathohippus
Eurygnathohippus
* Hipparion

* Assorted members of Cervidae

* Broad fronted moose ( Cervalces latifrons ) * Cervavitus * Eucladoceros * Libralces * Praemegaceros

* Various members of the order Proboscidea
Proboscidea

* Deinotheriidae (e.g. Deinotherium
Deinotherium
) * Elephas celebensis * Gompotheriidae sp. (e.g. Anancus , Gomphotherium
Gomphotherium
et Sinomastodon )

* Mammuthus sp.

* Mammuthus africanavus * Mammuthus meridionalis
Mammuthus meridionalis
* Mammuthus trogontherii

* Palaeoloxodon antiquus * Tetralophodon
Tetralophodon
* Stegolophodon * Zygolophodon

* Metaxytherium * Running hyena ( Chasmaporthetes
Chasmaporthetes
) * Giant hyena ( Pachycrocuta
Pachycrocuta
) * Bear Dog
Dog
( Amphicyon
Amphicyon
lydekkeri) * Giant predatory bear ( Agriotherium ) * Auvergne bear (Ursus minimus) * Dwarf panda (Ailuropoda minor) et Ailuropoda wulingshanensis * Viverra leakeyi

* Canidae
Canidae
sp.

* Canis falconeri * Lycaon sekowei * Merriam\'s dog (Megacyon merriami) * Xenocyon lycaonoides * Trinil Dog (Mececyon trinilensis)

* Giant cheetah (Acinonyx pardinensis) * Owen's Panther ( Puma pardoides )

* Saber-toothed cats ( Machairodontinae )

* Dinofelis * Hemimachairodus * Homotherium
Homotherium
(extirpated from Africa
Africa
1.5 mya ) * Machairodus
Machairodus
* Megantereon * Metailurus

* Panthera
Panthera
sp.

* European jaguar ( Panthera
Panthera
(onca) gombaszoegensis) * Panthera
Panthera
palaeosinensis * Wanhsien tiger ( Panthera
Panthera
tigris acutidens) * Trinil tiger ( Panthera
Panthera
tigris trinilensis) * Ngandong tiger ( Panthera
Panthera
tigris soloensis) * Panthera
Panthera
youngi * Longdan tiger ( Panthera
Panthera
zdanskyi)

* Crocodilia
Crocodilia
sp.

* Crocodylus
Crocodylus
sp.

* Crocodylus
Crocodylus
anthropophagus * Kali Gedeh giant crocodile ( Species inquirenda ) * Crocodylus
Crocodylus
palaeindicus * Crocodylus
Crocodylus
thorbjarnarsoni

* Euthecodon
Euthecodon
* Gavialis bengawanicus * Rimasuchus
Rimasuchus
* Toyotamaphimeia

* Giant ape Gigantopithecus * Theropithecus brumpti et Theropithecus oswaldi * Parapapio * Paranthropus
Paranthropus
* Australopithecus
Australopithecus

* Various Homo
Homo
sp.

* Homo
Homo
ergaster * Homo
Homo
gautengensis * Homo
Homo
habilis * Homo
Homo
heildenbergensis * Homo
Homo
naledi * Homo
Homo
sapiens idaltu * Homo
Homo
rhodesiensis * Homo
Homo
rudolfensis

* Pelagornithidae (e.g. Pelagornis )

Megafauna
Megafauna
that disappeared in Africa
Africa
and/or Asia
Asia
during the Late Pleistocene:

* Steppe bison ( Bison
Bison
priscus) * European bison
European bison
( Bison
Bison
bonasus, extirpated in Western Asia
Asia
) * Leptobison hanaizumiensis * Aurochs
Aurochs
(Bos primigenius) * Bos palaesondaicus * Cebu tamaraw ( Bubalus cebuensis ) * Bubalus groves * Leptobos sp. * Naemorhedus sumatraensis * Giant hartebeest ( Megalotragus ) * Dorcabune * Megalovis * Hippotragus gigas * Giant long-horned buffalo ( Pelorovis
Pelorovis
) * Irish elk
Irish elk
(Megaloceros giganteus) * Sinomegaceros * Various Gazella sp. * Rusingoryx * Spirocerus sp. (e.g. S. kiakhtensis) * Hexaprotodon * Sivatherium
Sivatherium
maurusium * Giant tapir ( Megatapirus ) * Giant pika (Ochotona whartoni) * Aardvark
Aardvark
(Orycteropus afer, extirpated in South Asia
Asia
circa 13,000 BCE) * Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
( Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
amphibius, extirpated in the Western Asia
Asia
circa 1,000 BCE)

* Various members of Proboscidea
Proboscidea

* Loxodonta atlantica * Stegodon * Woolly Mammoth
Mammoth
(Mammuthus primigenius)

* Elephas
Elephas
sp.

* Elephas
Elephas
hysudricus * Elephas
Elephas
hysudrindicus * Elephas
Elephas
maximus rubridens

* Palaeoloxodon sp.

* Palaeoloxodon namadicus (largest land mammal on record) * Palaeoloxodon naumanni * Palaeoloxodon recki * Paleoloxodon turkmenicus

* Rhinocerotidae

* Ceratotherium mauritanicum * Woolly rhinoceros
Woolly rhinoceros
(Coelodonta antiquitatis) * Elasmotherium ( Elasmotherium sibiricum) * Rhinoceros
Rhinoceros
philippinensis et Rhinoceros
Rhinoceros
sinensis, and the South Asian rhino ( Rhinoceros
Rhinoceros
sivalensis) * Stephanorhinus sp. (e.g. Merk's and Narrow Nosed Rhinoceros)

* Eurasian cave lion ( Panthera
Panthera
leo spelea) * Sri Lanka lion ( Panthera
Panthera
leo sinhaleyus) * Japanese Leopard
Leopard
( Panthera
Panthera
pardus ssp.) * Japanese Tiger
Tiger
( Panthera
Panthera
tigris japonicus) * Sivapanthera * Homotherium
Homotherium
* Cave hyena
Cave hyena
(Crocuta crocuta spelaea)

* Megafaunal Wolves

* Beringian wolf
Beringian wolf
* Canis
Canis
lupus spelaeus * Paleolithic dog

* Various Ursus sp.

* Deninger\'s bear (Ursus deningeri) * Etruscan bear (ancestor to both the cave bear and brown bear (Ursus etruscus)) * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
small cave bear ( Ursus rossicus ) * Cave bear
Cave bear
(Ursus spelaeus) * Giant polar bear (Ursus maritimus tyrannus)

* Ailuropoda baconi

* Wild Equids (Equus sp.)

* Equus capensis * Wild horse
Wild horse
(e.g. Equus ferus ferus ) * Equus hydruntinus * Equus mauritanicus * Equus namadicus * Equus sivalensis
Equus sivalensis
* Equus yunannensis

* Asian ostrich (Struthio asiaticus) * Bennu Heron (Ardea bennuides) * Hovacrex roberti * Malagasy sheldgoose (Centrornis majori) * Hipposideros besaoka * Voay
Voay
* Aldabrachampsus * Cylindrapsis * Megalochelys (largest recorded giant tortoise in existence) * Leptoptilos robustus
Leptoptilos robustus
* Shiriyanetta (Japanese flightless duck) * Canary Islands Quail (Coturnix gomerae) * Gallotia goliath * Canariomys * Long-legged bunting (Emberiza alcoveri) * Pongo hooijeri * Macaca anderssoni , Macaca jiangchuanensis and the Robust Macaque (Macaca robustus) * Gorgopithecus

* Various Homo
Homo
sp.

* Homo
Homo
erectus * Homo
Homo
floresiensis * Homo
Homo
neanderthalis * Homo
Homo
sp. altai * Homo
Homo
sp. longlin * Homo
Homo
sapiens balangodensis

PACIFIC (AUSTRALASIA AND OCEANIA)

See also: Australian megafauna , List of extinct animals of the Hawaiian Islands , and List of extinct animals of New Zealand

In Australia
Australia
, the sudden spate of extinctions occurred earlier than in the Americas. Most evidence points to the period immediately after the first arrival of humans—thought to be a little under 50,000 years ago—but scientific argument continues as to the exact date range. In the rest of the Pacific (New Guinea , New Caledonia
New Caledonia
, the rest of Australasia
Australasia
and Oceania ) although in some respects far later, endemic fauna also usually perished quickly upon the arrival of humans in the late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
and early Holocene. This section does not include any spate of extinctions post 1000 BCE (e.g. subatlantic New Zealand
New Zealand
or Hawaii ).

The extinctions in the Pacific included:

* Various members of Diprotodontidae

* Diprotodon sp. (giant relatives of the wombats ) * Euowenia sp. (diprotodont) * Euryzygoma
Euryzygoma
dunense (diprotodont) * Hulitherium tomasetti (diprotodont) * Maokopia ronaldi (diprotodont) * Nototherium sp. (diprotodont) * Zygomaturus sp. (a "marsupial rhino")

* Various members of Macropodidae
Macropodidae

* Macropus
Macropus
sp. (e.g. M. titan , M. pearsoni , giant kangaroo ) * Procoptodon sp. (e.g. P. goliath, hoof-toed, giant short-faced kangaroos) * Propleopus
Propleopus
oscillans (an omnivorous kangaroo) * Protemnodon sp. (giant wallaby) * Simosthenurus sp. (a giant kangaroo) * Sthenurus
Sthenurus
sp. (a giant kangaroo) * Troposodon sp. (wallaby )

* Various members of Vombatidae

* Lasiorhinus angustidens (giant wombat) * Phascolomys (giant wombat) * Phascolonus sp. (giant wombat) * Ramasayia magna (giant wombat) * Vombatus hacketti (Hackett's wombat) * Warendja wakefieldi (dwarf wombat)

* Palorchestes sp. (a marsupial "tapir ") * Zaglossus hacketti (a giant echidna) * Phascolarctos stirtoni (a giant koala) * Megalibgwilia (oldest known echidna, same extinction period) * Wonambi (a five-to-six-metre-long Australian constrictor snake ) * Thylacoleo carnifex (a lioness-sized marsupial carnivore) * Thylacinus cynocephalus (extirpated on mainland Australia
Australia
and New Guinea) * Sarcophilus laniarius et Sarcophilus moornaensis (giant forms of the Tasmanian Devil) * Megalania prisca (a giant predatory monitor lizard)

* Crocodilia
Crocodilia
sp.

* Ikanogavialis (the last fully marine crocodilian) * Mekosuchus sp. (two meters long, last fully terrestrial crocodile, South Pacific Islands) * Pallimnarchus sp. (a giant Australian freshwater crocodile) * Quinkana sp. (giant Australian terrestrial crocodile) * Volia (a two-to-three meter long mekosuchine crocodylian, apex predator of Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Fiji)

* Meiolania et Ninjemys (giant armoured tortoises) * Giant Iguana ( Lapitiguana et Brachylophus gibbonsi
Brachylophus gibbonsi
) * Genyornis newtoni (a three meter tall dromornthid , often referred to in vernacular as 'the last thunder bird') * Powerful goshawk and the Gracile goshawk ( Accipiter
Accipiter
efficax et Accipiter
Accipiter
quartus) * Sylviornis
Sylviornis
(giant, flightless New Caledonian galliform - largest in existence) * Noble megapode (Megavitornis altirostris) * New Caledonian gallinule (Porphyrio kukwiedei)

* Giant megapodes

* Giant malleefowl (Leipoa gallinacea) * Pile-builder megapode (Megapodius molistructor) * Consumed scrubfowl (Megapodius alimentum) * Viti Levu scrubfowl (Megapodius amissus)

* New Caledonian ground dove (Gallicolumba longitarsus) * New Caledonian snipe et Viti Levu snipe (Coenocorypha miratropica et Coenocorypha neocaledonica) * Niue night heron (Nycticorax kalavikai) * Marquesas cuckoo-dove (Macropygia heana) * New Caledonian barn owl (Tyto letocarti) * Various Galliraillus sp. * Kaua\'i mole duck (Talpanas lippa, a blind, flightless, terrestrial Hawaiian duck) * Apteribis (a giant, flightless ibis) * Lowland kagu (Rhynochetos orarius) * Viti Levu giant pigeon (Natunaornis gigoura) * American Flamingo
Flamingo
(Phoenicopterus ruber, extirpated in Australia) * Xenorhynchopsis minor et Xenorhynchopsis tibialis (Australian flamingo) * Ocyplanus proeses (Australian flamingo) The woolly mammoth became extinct around 12,000 years ago – except a dwarf subspecies on Wrangel Island and St. Paul Island , which humans did not colonize until much later. Cave bear
Cave bear
(Ursus spelaeus ) Models of the straight-tusked elephant (Paleoloxodon antiquus). Elasmotherium reconstruction

Hippopotamuses ( Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
sp.) inhabited Great Britain
Great Britain
until 80,000 BCE, whence due to glacial shifts, hippopotamuses were restricted to Southern-Eastern Europe
Europe
, Mediterranean islands and finally Western Asia
Asia
until 1,000 BCE.

Some extinct megafauna, such as the bunyip -like Diprotodon , may remain in folk memory or be the sources of cryptozoological legends .

EUROPE AND NORTHERN EURASIA

The Leopard
Leopard
( Panthera
Panthera
pardus) inhabited the entire expanse of Afro- Eurasia
Eurasia
below the 54th parallel north
54th parallel north
, from modern day Spain
Spain
and the UK in the west, to South Africa
Africa
in the south, and Siberia
Siberia
, Japan and Sundaland
Sundaland
in the east during the Late Pleistocene.

This geography spans the entirety of the European continent , and stretches into Northern Asia
Asia
, through the Caucasus
Caucasus
and Central Asia to Northern China
China
, Siberia
Siberia
and Beringia
Beringia
. During the Late Pleistocene , this region was noted for its great diversity and dynamism of biomes , including the warm climes of the Mediterranean basin , open temperate woodlands , arid plains , mountainous heathland and swampy wetlands , all of which were vulnerable to the severe climatic fluctuations of the interchanges between glacial and interglacials periods (stadials ). However, it was the expansive mammoth steppe which was the ecosystem which united and defined this region during the Late Pleistocene. One of the key features of Europe's Late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
climate was the often drastic turnover of conditions and biota between the numerous stadials, which could set within a century. For example, during glacial periods, the entire North Sea
North Sea
was drained of water to form Doggerland
Doggerland
. The final major cold spell occurred from 25,000 BCE to 18,000 BCE, and is known as the Last Glacial Maximum
Last Glacial Maximum
, when the Fenno-Scandinavian ice sheet covered much of northern Europe , while the Alpine ice sheet occupied significant parts of central-southern Europe.

Europe, and in particular northern Eurasia, being far colder and drier than today, was largely hegemonized by the mammoth steppe , an ecosystem dominated by palatable high-productivity grasses , herbs and willow shrubs . This supported an extensive biota of grassland fauna, and stretched eastwards from Spain
Spain
in the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
to the Yukon
Yukon
in modern-day Canada
Canada
. The area was populated by many species of grazers which assembled in large herds similar in size to those in Africa
Africa
today. Populous species which roamed the great grasslands included the woolly mammoth , woolly rhinocerous , Elasmotherium , steppe bison , Pleistocene
Pleistocene
horse , muskox , Cervalces , reindeer , antelope (Parabubalis, Procapra , Saiga
Saiga
, Spirocerus) and steppe pika . Carnivores included cave lion , Homotherium
Homotherium
, cave hyena , grey wolf , dhole , and the arctic fox .

At the edges of these large stretches of grassland could be found more shrub-like terrain and dry conifer forests and woodland (akin to forest steppe or taiga ). The browsing collective of megafauna included woolly rhinoceros , Irish elk
Irish elk
, moose , Cervalces , tarpan , aurochs , woodland bison , camels and smaller deer (Capreolus , Cervus , Moschus ). Brown bears , wolverines , cave bear , wolves , lynx , leopards , and red foxes also inhabited this biome. Tigers were at stages also present, from the edges of Eastern Europe
Europe
around the Black Sea to Beringia
Beringia
. The more mountainous terrain , incorporating montane grasslands , subalpine conifer forests , alpine tundra and broken, craggy slopes , was occupied by several species of mountain-going animals like argali , chamois , ibex , mouflon , pika , wolves , leopards , Ursus sp. and lynx , with snow leopards , Baikal yak and snow sheep in Northern Asia
Asia
. Arctic
Arctic
tundra , which lined the north of the mammoth steppe, reflected modern ecology with species such as the polar bear , wolf , reindeer and muskox .

Other biomes, although less noted, were significant in contributing to the diversity of fauna in Late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Europe. Warmer grasslands such as temperate steppes and Mediterranean savannahs hosted Stephanorhinus , gazelle , European wisent , asian ostriches , Leptobos , cheetahs , and onager . These biomes also contained an assortment of mammoth steppe fauna, such as saiga antelope , lions , Homotherium
Homotherium
, cave hyenas , wolves , Pleistocene
Pleistocene
horse , steppe bison , Spirocerus, aurochs , and camels . Deciduous , mixed conifer/broadleaf and Mediterranean forests and open woodlands accommodated straight-tusked elephants , Praemegaceros , Stephanorhinus , European wisent , wild boar , species of Ursus such as the Etruscan bear , and smaller deer (Capreolus , Cervus
Cervus
, Dama , Haploidoceros) with several mammoth steppe species, such as lynx , tarpan , wolves , dholes , moose , Irish Elk
Elk
, woodland bison , leopards , and aurochs . Woolly rhinoceros
Woolly rhinoceros
and mammoth occasionally resided in these temperate biomes, mixing with predominately temperate fauna to escape harsh glacials. In warmer wetlands , European water buffalo and hippopotamus were present. Although these habitats were restricted to micro refugia and to Southern Europe
Europe
and its fringes, being in Iberia , Italy
Italy
, the Balkans
Balkans
, Ukraine\'s Black Sea
Black Sea
basin and the Caucasus
Caucasus
, during inter-glacials these biomes had a far more northernly range. For example, hippopotamus inhabited Great Britain and straight-tusked elephant the Netherlands , as recently as 80,000 BCE and 42,000 BCE respectively.

Europe's Late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
biota went through two phases of extinction. Some fauna became extinct before 13,000 BCE, in staggered intervals, particularly between 50,000 BCE and 30,000 BCE. Species include cave bear , Elasmotherium , straight-tusked elephant , Stephanorhinus , water buffalo , Neanderthals
Neanderthals
, gazelle , and Homotherium
Homotherium
. However, the great majority of species were extinguished , extirpated or experienced severe population contractions between 13,000 BCE and 9,000 BCE, ending with the Younger Dryas
Younger Dryas
. At that time there were small ice sheets in Scotland
Scotland
and Scandinavia
Scandinavia
. The mammoth steppe disappeared from the vast majority of its former range, either due to a permanent shift in climatic conditions , or an absence of ecosystem management due to decimated , fragmented or extinct populations of megaherbivores . This led to a region wide extinction vortex , resulting in cyclically diminishing bioproductivity and defaunation . Insular species on Mediterranean islands such as Sardinia
Sardinia
, Sicily
Sicily
, Malta
Malta
, Cyprus
Cyprus
and Crete
Crete
, went extinct around the same time as humans colonised those islands. Fauna included dwarf elephantids , megacerines and hippopotamuses , and giant avians , otters and rodents . See also: List of extinct animals of Europe
Europe
The 'Gallery of Lions', representations of the Eurasian Cave Lion in Chauvet-Pont-d\'Arc Cave . Homotherium
Homotherium
restoration. Reconstruction of the five phenotypes of Pleistocene
Pleistocene
wild horse . The coat colours and dimensions are based on genetic evidence and historic descriptions. A model of an adult Neanderthal
Neanderthal
male head and shoulders on display in the Hall of Human
Human
Origins in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Saiga
Saiga
antelope ( Saiga
Saiga
sp.) inhabited a range from England and France
France
to the Yukon
Yukon
in the Late Pleistocene, diversifying into two species. S. borealis is now extinct and the critically endangered S. tartica is now limited to steppe in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
and Mongolia
Mongolia
. Modern cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus ) replaced giant cheetah (Acinonyx pardinensis ) in Eurasia after the Middle Pleistocene
Pleistocene
, and inhabited a range from Eastern Europe
Europe
and the Balkans
Balkans
to China
China
. Today, the critically endangered Eurasian cheetah are now restricted to Iran
Iran
.

(80,000–4,000 years ago)

* Woolly mammoth
Woolly mammoth
(Mammuthus primigenius)

* Dwarf Mammoth
Mammoth

* Cretan Dwarf Mammoth
Mammoth
( Mammuthus creticus ) * Dwarf Sardinian Mammoth
Mammoth
( Mammuthus lamarmorai )

* Straight Tusked Elephant
Elephant
( Palaeoloxodon antiquus) * Asian Straight Tusked Elephant
Elephant
(Paleoloxodon namadicus, Northern Asia
Asia
)

* Dwarf Elephant
Elephant

* Palaeoloxodon chaniensis * Palaeoloxodon cypriotes * Palaeoloxodon falconeri * Palaeoloxodon mnaidriensis

* Ochotona sp. (e.g. Giant pika (O. whartoni)) * Woolly rhinoceros
Woolly rhinoceros
(Coelodonta antiquitatis) * Stephanorhinus sp. (e.g. Merk's and Narrow Nosed Rhinoceros) * Elasmotherium ( Elasmotherium sibiricum)

* Equus sp. (e.g.

* Wild Horse
Horse
(E. ferus ssp. ) * Equus cf. galllicus * European Ass (E. hydruntinus) * Equus cf. latipes * Equus cf. lenensis * Equus cf. uralensis

* Irish elk
Irish elk
(Megaloceros giganteus) * Praemegaceros * Cretan dwarf megacerine ( Candiacervus
Candiacervus
) * Broad-fronted moose (Cervalces latifrons) * Mediterranean deer (Haploidoceros mediterraneus) * Northern saiga antelope ( Saiga
Saiga
borealis) * Twisted-horn antelope (Spirocerus kiakhtensis) * Goat-horned antelope (Parabubalis capricornis) * Gazella sp. * Steppe bison ( Bison
Bison
priscus) * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
woodland bison ( Bison
Bison
schoetensacki) * Baikal yak (Bos baikalensis) * Giant Muskox
Muskox
( Praeovibos priscus ) * Leptobos sp. * European water buffalo ( Bubalus murrensis
Bubalus murrensis
) * Balearic Islands cave goat ( Myotragus balearicus) * Camelus knoblochi and other Camelus sp.

* Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
sp.

* European hippopotamus ( Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
antiquus) * Maltese Dwarf Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
( Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
melitensis ) * Cyprus
Cyprus
Dwarf Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
( Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
minor) * Sicilian Dwarf Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
( Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
petlandi )

* Balearic giant dormouse ( Hypnomys
Hypnomys
sp.) * Leithia sp. (Maltese and Sicilian giant dormouse) * Robust Pleistocene
Pleistocene
European Otter ( Cyrnaonyx ) * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Mediterranean Otter ( Algarolutra ) * Sardinian Giant Otter ( Megalenhydris barbaricus) * Sardinian Dwarf Otter ( Sardolutra ) * European Ice Age Leopard
Leopard
( Panthera
Panthera
pardus spelaea) * Sardinian Dhole
Dhole
(Cynotherium sardous) * European Dhole
Dhole
(Cuon alpinus europaeus) * Scimitar cat ( Homotherium
Homotherium
sp.) * Lynx
Lynx
issiodorensis * Mediterranean Cave Lynx
Lynx
( Lynx
Lynx
spelaeus) * Cave lion ( Panthera
Panthera
leo spelaea) * Cave hyena
Cave hyena
(Crocuta crocuta spelaea)

* Various Ursus sp.

* Etruscan bear (Ursus etruscus) * Deninger\'s bear (Ursus deningeri) * Gamssulzen Cave Bear (Ursus ingressus) * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
small cave bear ( Ursus rossicus ) * Cave bear
Cave bear
(Ursus spelaeus) * Giant polar bear (Ursus maritimus tyrannus)

* Asian Ostrich (Struthio asiaticus) * Giant Swan (Cygnus falconer i) * Cretan Owl (Athene cretensis) * Yakutian Goose ( Anser djuktaiensis ) * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
European Crane s (Grus primigenia et Grus melitensis) * Neanderthals
Neanderthals
( Homo
Homo
neanderthalensis), survived until about 40,000 years ago in the Iberian peninsula. * Denisovians ( Homo
Homo
sp. altai)

Many species extant today were present in areas either far to the south or west of their contemporary ranges- for example, all the arctic fauna on this list inhabited regions as south as the Iberian Peninsula at various stages of the Late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
. Recently extinct organisms are noted as †. Species
Species
extirpated from significant portions of or all former ranges in Europe
Europe
and Northern Eurasia
Eurasia
during the Quaternary extinction event include-

* † European Lion ( Panthera
Panthera
leo europaea) * Tiger
Tiger
( Panthera
Panthera
tigris, from the Ukrainian Black Sea
Black Sea
to Beringia
Beringia
) * Cheetah
Cheetah
(Acinonyx jubatus) * Persian Leopard
Leopard
( Panthera
Panthera
pardus ciscaucasica) * Snow Leopard
Leopard
( Panthera
Panthera
uncia) * Eurasian and Iberian Lynx
Lynx
( Lynx
Lynx
lynx et Lynx
Lynx
pardinus ) * Wolverine
Wolverine
(Gulo gulo) * Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) * Arctic
Arctic
Fox (Vulpes lagopus) * Dhole
Dhole
(Cuon alpinus) * Gray Wolf
Gray Wolf
(†Megafaunal et Beringian wolf
Beringian wolf
, and the Paleolithic dog ( Canis
Canis
lupus )) * † Tarpan
Tarpan
(Equus ferus ferus) * Fallow Deer
Deer
(Dama dama) * Mouflon
Mouflon
(Ovis orientalis orientalis) * Chamois
Chamois
(Rupicapra spp.) * Saiga
Saiga
Antelope
Antelope
( Saiga
Saiga
tatarica) * Reindeer
Reindeer
(Rangifer tarandus) * Moose
Moose
(Alces alces) * Onager
Onager
(Equus hemionus) * † Aurochs
Aurochs
(Bos primigenius) * European Bison
Bison
( Bison
Bison
bonasus) * Asian water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) * Musk ox
Musk ox
(Ovibos moschatus) * Asian Elephant
Elephant
( Elephas
Elephas
maximus, from the Black Sea
Black Sea
to Northern China
China
) * Steppe
Steppe
pika (Ochotona pusilla) * Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
( Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
amphibius) * Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) * †Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) * Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) * Barbary Monkey (Macaca sylvanus)

NORTH AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

Short faced bear (Arctodus simus) Chendytes lawi et Oncorhynchus rastrosus
Oncorhynchus rastrosus
Life restoration of the Yukon
Yukon
wild horse, Equus lambei .

See also: List of North American animals extinct in the Holocene
Holocene
Reconstruction of the Western Camel, Camelops hesternus Life restoration of Cervalces scotti . Bison
Bison
latifrons , fossil buffalo skeleton (public display, Cincinnati
Cincinnati
Museum of Natural History "> Californian Turkey (Meleagris californica ) and Megafaunal Californian Condor ( Gymnogyps amplus ) fossil displays at La Brea Tar Pits Reconstruction of the Cuban Giant Owl, Ornimegalonyx oteroi , of Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Cuba
Cuba
, with the carcass of a large solenodon . Life restoration of the Shasta Ground Sloth, Nothrotheriops shastensis. Glyptotherium reconstruction Mixotoxodon larenis reconstruction. Reconstruction of Smilodon
Smilodon
fatalis Reconstruction of Panthera
Panthera
leo atrox Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi ) reconstruction Graphical reconstruction of Mammut americanum . The Dhole
Dhole
, now restricted to the southern portions of Asia
Asia
, was present from the Iberia to Mexico
Mexico
during the Late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
. A Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri), believed to be the closest surviving relative of the extinct Platygonus . An illustration of Megatherium
Megatherium
. Size comparison of Smilodon
Smilodon
fatalis (purple), S. popular (green), and S. gracilis (orange) with modern human for scale. Each grid segment=1 square meter. Life restoration of Arctotherium
Arctotherium
bonariense.

During the last 60,000 years, including the end of the last glacial period , approximately 51 genera of large mammals have become extinct in North America
North America
. Of these, many genera extinctions can be reliably attributed to a brief interval of 11,500 to 10,000 radiocarbon years before present , shortly following the arrival of the Clovis people in North America. Most other extinctions are poorly constrained in time, though some definitely occurred outside of this narrow interval. In contrast, only about half a dozen small mammals disappeared during this time. Previous North American extinction pulses had occurred at the end of glaciations, but not with such an ecological imbalance between large mammals and small ones. (Moreover, previous extinction pulses were not comparable to the Quaternary extinction event; they involved primarily species replacements within ecological niches, while the latter event resulted in many ecological niches being left unoccupied.) The megafaunal extinctions include forty one genera of herbivores (H), and twenty carnivores (C). North American extinctions included:

* All forms of Pleistocene
Pleistocene
wild horse (Equus ) (H)

* Equus alaskae (H) * Equus cedralensis (H) * Mexican horse (Equus conversidens) (H) * Equus complicatus (H) * Stilt-legged horse (Equus francisci) (may be a synonym of Mexican horse) (H) * Tarpan
Tarpan
(Equus ferus ferus) (H) * Equus fraternus (H) * Equus giganteus (H) * Yukon
Yukon
horse (Equus lambei) (H) * Equus mexicanus (H) * Pacific Horse
Horse
(Equus pacificus) (H) * Western Horse
Horse
(Equus occidentalis) (H) * Equus semiplicatus (H) * Hagerman horse (Equus simplicidens) (H) * Scott\'s horse (Equus scotti) (H)

* All members of North American tapir ( Tapirus
Tapirus
, four species) (H)

* California tapir ( Tapirus
Tapirus
californicus) (H) * Cope\'s tapir ( Tapirus
Tapirus
copei) (H) * Merriam\'s tapir ( Tapirus
Tapirus
merriami) (H) * Vero tapir ( Tapirus
Tapirus
veroensis) (H)

* Various members of Camelidae

* Western camel ( Camelops hesternus) (H) * Stilt legged llama ( Hemiauchenia
Hemiauchenia
)(H) * Stout legged llama (Paleolama ) (H)

* Three of the last four Antilocapridae genera, only pronghorns survived) (H)

* Capromeryx (H) * Stockoceros (H) * Tetrameryx (H)

* American mountain deer ( Odocoileus lucasi) (H) * Stag-moose (Cervalces scotti) (H) * Shrub-ox
Shrub-ox
and Harlan\'s muskox (the Arctic
Arctic
Musk ox
Musk ox
survived) (H) * Harrington\'s mountain goat (Oreamnos harringtoni, smaller and more southern distribution than its surviving relative ) (H)

* Bison
Bison
(only Bison
Bison
bison in North America, and Bison
Bison
bonasus in Eurasia, survived) (H)

* Ancient bison
Ancient bison
( Bison
Bison
antiquus ) (H) * Long-horned/Giant bison ( Bison
Bison
latifrons ) (H) * Steppe bison ( Bison
Bison
priscus) (H) * Bison
Bison
occidentalis (H)

* Giant beaver ( Castoroides
Castoroides
ohioensis et Castoroides
Castoroides
leiseyorum ) (H) * Aztlanolagus
Aztlanolagus
sp. (H) * Saiga antelope ( Saiga
Saiga
tatarica, extirpated ) (H) * Giant tortoise ( Hesperotestudo sp. et Gopherus donlaloi) (H)

* Teratorn (Teratornithidae) (C)

* Aiolornis incredibilis (C) * Cathartornis gracilis (C) * Oscaravis olsoni (C) * Teratornis merriami (C) * Teratornis woodburnensis (C)

* Woodward\'s Eagle (Amplibuteo woodwardi) (C) * Megafaunal Californian Condor ( Gymnogyps amplus ) (C) * Cuban Condor ( Gymnogyps varonai ) (C) * Breagyps sp. (C) * Neogyps sp. (C) * Puerto Rican crow (Corvus pumilis) (C) * Cope's and Minute Flamingos (Phoenicopterus minutus et Phoenicopterus copei) (C) * Jamaican Ibis (Xenicibis xympithecus) (C) * Caracara sp. (C) * Milvago sp. (C) * Cuban Giant Owl (Ornimegalonyx) (C) * Neophrontops sp. (C) * Daggett\'s eagle ( Buteogallus
Buteogallus
daggetti) (C) * Buteogallus
Buteogallus
fragilis (C) * Buteogallus
Buteogallus
borrasi (C) * La Brea/Asphalt Stork (Ciconia maltha) (C) * Brea Owl (Oraristix brea) (C) * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Black Vulture (Coragyps occidentalis) (C) * Titanohierax (C) * Californian Flightless Sea Duck ( Chendytes lawi ) (C) * Dow\'s Puffin (Fratercula dowi) (C) * Bermuda flicker
Bermuda flicker
(Colaptes oceanicus) * Nesotrochis sp. (e.g. Nesotrochis debooyi ) (C) * Barbados rail ( Incertae sedis
Incertae sedis
) (C) * Cuban Flightless Crane (Grus cubensis) (H) * La Brea Crane ( Grus pagei ) (H) * Bermuda flightless duck (Anas pachyscelus) (H) * Saint Croix Macaw (Ara autocthones) (H) * Turkeys (Meleagris californica et Meleagris crassipes) (H) * Sabertooth Salmon (Oncorhynchus rastrosus) (C) * Pristine mustached bat (Pteronotus (Phyllodia) pristinus) (C) * Antilles
Antilles
monkey (Xenotrichini) (H) * Steller\'s Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis gigas, extirpated in North America) (H) * Neochoerus (e.g. Pickney's capybara, N. pinckneyi ) (H) * Giant hutia (Heptaxodontidae) (H) * Giant pika (Ochotona whartoni) (H) * Eremotherium , a megatheriid ground sloths (H) * Nothrotheriops
Nothrotheriops
and Nothrotherium , nothrotheriid ground sloths (H) * Megalonyx , a megalonychid ground sloth (H) * Paramylodon and Glossotherium , mylodontid ground sloth s (H)

* Greater Antillean Dwarf Ground Sloths ( Megalonychidae ) (H)

* Acratocnus (H) * Habanocnus
Habanocnus
(H) * Megalocnus
Megalocnus
(H) * Megalonyx (H) * Miocnus (H) * Neocnus (H)

* Various members of Glyptodontidae

* Glyptotherium (H) * Doedicurus (H) * Pachyarmatherium (H)

* Beautiful armadillo (Dasypus bellus) (H) * Pampatheres (e.g. Holmesina ) (H) * Mixotoxodon
Mixotoxodon
(H) * Short-faced skunk (Brachyprotoma obtusata) (C) * Short-faced bear ( Arctodus simus et Arctodus pristinus, one of the largest terrestrial mammal carnivores of all time) (C) * Florida cave bear (Tremarctos floridanus) (C) * Giant polar bear ( Ursus maritimus tyrannus , a possible inhabitant) (C) * Homotherium
Homotherium
( Homotherium
Homotherium
serum ) (C) * Saber-toothed cat ( Smilodon
Smilodon
fatalis ) (C) * American lion
American lion
( Panthera
Panthera
leo atrox, endemic to North America
North America
after 340,000 BP) (C) * Eurasian cave lion ( Panthera
Panthera
leo spelea, present only as far as modern day Yukon
Yukon
) (C) * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
North American and South American Jaguars (Panthera onca augusta et Panthera
Panthera
onca mesembrina , range semi-recolonised by other subspecies) (C) * American cheetah (Miracinonyx, not a true cheetah) (C) * Cougar
Cougar
(Puma concolor, megafaunal ecomorph extirpated from North America, South American populations recolonised former range) (C) * Jaguarundi
Jaguarundi
(Puma yagouaroundi, extirpated, range semi-recolonised) (C) * Margay (Leopardus weidii, extirpated)(C) * Ocelot
Ocelot
(Leopardus pardalis, extirpated, range marginally recolonised) (C) * Dhole
Dhole
(Cuon alpinus) (C)

* Various Canis
Canis
sp.

* Dire wolf ( Canis
Canis
dirus) (C) * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
coyote ( Canis
Canis
latrans orcutti)(C) * Megafaunal wolf (e.g. Beringian wolf
Beringian wolf
( Canis
Canis
lupus)) (C)

* Gomphotheriidae sp. (H)

* Cuvieronius
Cuvieronius
(H) * Stegomastodon
Stegomastodon
(H)

* Mammoth
Mammoth
(Mammuthus) (H)

* Columbian mammoth
Columbian mammoth
(Mammuthus columbi) (H) * Pygmy mammoth
Pygmy mammoth
(Mammuthus exilis) (H) * Woolly mammoth
Woolly mammoth
(Mammuthus primigenius) (H)

* American mastodon (Mammut americanum) (H) * Flat-headed peccary ( Platygonus sp. ) and long-nosed peccary ( Mylohyus
Mylohyus
sp. ) (H) * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Yucatán peccary (Muknalia minimus) (H) * Collared peccary
Collared peccary
(Pecari tajacu, extirpated, range semi-recolonised) (H)

The survivors are in some ways as significant as the losses: bison (H), grey wolf (C), lynx (C), grizzly bear (C), American black bear (C), deer (e.g. caribou , moose , waipiti (elk) , Odocoileus sp.) (H), pronghorn (H), white-lipped peccary (H), muskox (H), bighorn sheep (H), and mountain goat (H); the list of survivors also include species which were extirpated during the Quaternary extinction event, but recolonised at least part of their ranges during the mid-holocene from South American relict populations, such as the cougar (C), jaguar (C), collared peccary (H), ocelot (C), margay (C), and jaguarundi (C). All save the pronghorns descended from Asian ancestors that had evolved with human predators. Pronghorns are the second fastest land mammal (after the cheetah ), which may have helped them elude hunters. More difficult to explain in the context of overkill is the survival of bison, since these animals first appeared in North America
North America
less than 240,000 years ago and so were geographically removed from human predators for a sizeable period of time. Because ancient bison evolved into living bison, there was no continent-wide extinction of bison at the end of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
(although the genus was regionally extirpated in many areas). The survival of bison into the Holocene
Holocene
and recent times is therefore inconsistent with the overkill scenario. By the end of the Pleistocene, when humans first entered North America, these large animals had been geographically separated from human hunters for more than 200,000 years. Given this enormous span of geologic time, bison would almost certainly have been very nearly as naive as native North American large mammals.

The culture that has been connected with the wave of extinctions in North America
North America
is the paleo-Indian culture associated with the Clovis people (q.v.), who were thought to use spear throwers to kill large animals. The chief criticism of the "prehistoric overkill hypothesis" has been that the human population at the time was too small and/or not sufficiently widespread geographically to have been capable of such ecologically significant impacts. This criticism does not mean that climate change scenarios explaining the extinction are automatically to be preferred by default, however, any more than weaknesses in climate change arguments can be taken as supporting overkill. Some form of a combination of both factors could be plausible, and overkill would be a lot easier to achieve large-scale extinction with an already dying population due to climate change.

Lack of tameable megafauna was perhaps one of the reasons why Amerindian civilizations evolved differently from Old World
Old World
ones. Critics have disputed this by arguing that llamas , alpacas , and bison were domesticated.

SOUTH AMERICA

See also: List of South American animals extinct in the Holocene
Holocene
Reconstruction of Canis
Canis
dirus with two possible aspects according to its probable geographic origin: North American or South American. A Toxodon
Toxodon
skull in an exhibition commemorating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
's birth, Esplanada dos Ministérios , Brasília
Brasília
Doedicurus clavicaudatus reconstruction, distributed in North and South America
South America
. Reconstruction of a Macrauchenia
Macrauchenia
mother and calf, from Pleistocene
Pleistocene
South America
South America
. Cuvieronius reconstruction

South America
South America
had been isolated, an island continent, for many millions of years, and it had a wide range of fauna found nowhere else, though many of them became extinct during the Great American Interchange about 3 million years ago, such as the Saparassodonta family . Those that survived the interchange included the ground sloths , glyptodonts , pampatheres , phorusrhacids and notoungulates ; all managed to extend their range to North America. In the Pleistocene, South America
South America
remained largely unglaciated except for increased mountain glaciation in the Andes
Andes
, with the megafauna were marginally affected. At the start of the Holocene, all the preeminent genera of megafauna became extinct. Their smaller relatives remain, including anteaters , tree sloths , armadillos ; New World marsupials : opossums , shrew opossums , and the monito del monte (actually more related to Australian marsupials ). Today the largest land mammals remaining in South America
South America
are the wild camels of the Lamini
Lamini
group, such as the guanacos and vicuñas , and the Tapirus
Tapirus
genus, of which Baird\'s tapir can reach up to 400 kg. Other notable surviving large fauna are peccaries , marsh deer ( Capreolinae
Capreolinae
), spectacled bears , maned wolves , pumas , ocelots , jaguars , rheas , emerald tree boas , boa constrictors , anacondas , american crocodiles , caimans , and giant rodents such as capybaras .

* Smilodon
Smilodon
fatalis et Smilodon
Smilodon
populator * Panthera
Panthera
onca augusta et Panthera
Panthera
onca mesembrina * Arctotherium
Arctotherium
* Desmodus draculae * Canis
Canis
dirus * Canis
Canis
nehringi * Theriodictis * Protocyon * Dusicyon avus et Dusicyon cultridens * Speothos pacivorus * Pachyarmatherium * Dasypus bellus * Antifer * Agalmaceros blicki

* Camelidae

* Eulamaops * Hemiauchenia
Hemiauchenia
* Palaeolama

* Ground sloths

* Mylodontidae
Mylodontidae

* Catonyx * Glossotherium * Lestodon
Lestodon
* Mylodon * Nematherium * Octomylodon * Orophodon * Scelidotherium

* Megatheriidae

* Eremotherium * Megatherium
Megatherium

* Nothrotheriidae

* Nothropus * Nothrotherium

* Megalonychidae

* Ahytherium * Australonyx * Diabolotherium * Megistonyx * Proplatyarthrus * Valgipes bucklandi

* Glyptodontidae

* Doedicurus * Eleutherocercus * Glyptodon
Glyptodon
* Heteroglyptodon * Hoplophorus * Lomaphorus * Neosclerocalyptus * Neuryurus * Panochthus * Parapanochthus * Plaxhaplous * Sclerocalyptus

* Pampatheres (e.g. Holmesina , Pampetherium et Tonnicinctus) * Eutatus * Propaopus * Neochoerus

* Equidae
Equidae

* Equus ( Amerhippus
Amerhippus
) * Hippidion
Hippidion
* Onohippidium
Onohippidium

* Toxodon
Toxodon
* Mixotoxodon
Mixotoxodon

* Liptopterna

* Macrauchenia
Macrauchenia
* Proterotheriidae * Xenorhinotherium

* Gomphotheridae

* Cuvieronius
Cuvieronius
* Notiomastodon
Notiomastodon

* Hegetotheriidae * Mesotheriidae * Milvago brodkorbi * Caiman venezuelensis

LATER EXTINCTIONS

Main article: Holocene
Holocene
extinction

There is no general agreement on where the Holocene
Holocene
, or anthropogenic , extinction begins, and the Quaternary extinction event which includes climate change resulting in the end of the last ice age ends, or if they should be considered separate events at all. Some have suggested that anthropogenic extinctions may have begun as early as when the first modern humans spread out of Africa
Africa
between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, which is supported by rapid megafaunal extinction following recent human colonisation in Australia
Australia
, New Zealand and Madagascar
Madagascar
, in a similar way that any large, adaptable predator moving into a new ecosystem would . In many cases, it is suggested even minimal hunting pressure was enough to wipe out large fauna, particularly on geographically isolated islands. Only during the most recent parts of the extinction have plants also suffered large losses .

Overall, the Holocene
Holocene
extinction can be characterised by the human impact on the environment . The Holocene
Holocene
extinction continues into the 21st century, with overfishing , ocean acidification and the amphibian crisis being a few broader examples of an almost universal, cosmopolitan decline of biodiversity.

HUNTING HYPOTHESIS

This section POSSIBLY CONTAINS ORIGINAL RESEARCH . Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations . Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. (December 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message )

The hunting hypothesis suggests that humans hunted megaherbivores to extinction, which in turn caused the extinction of carnivores and scavengers which had preyed upon those animals. Therefore, this hypothesis holds Pleistocene
Pleistocene
humans responsible for the megafaunal extinction. One variant, known as blitzkrieg, portrays this process as relatively quick. Some of the direct evidence for this includes: fossils of some megafauna found in conjunction with human remains, embedded arrows and tool cut marks found in megafaunal bones, and European cave paintings that depict such hunting. Biogeographical evidence is also suggestive: the areas of the world where humans evolved currently have more of their Pleistocene
Pleistocene
megafaunal diversity (the elephants and rhinos of Asia
Asia
and Africa
Africa
) compared to other areas such as Australia
Australia
, the Americas
Americas
, Madagascar
Madagascar
and New Zealand
New Zealand
without the earliest humans. A picture arises of the megafauna of Asia
Asia
and Africa
Africa
evolving alongside humans, learning to be wary of them, and in other parts of the world the wildlife appearing ecologically naive and easier to hunt. This is particularly true of island fauna, which display a disastrous lack of fear of humans. Of course, it is impossible to demonstrate this naïveté directly in ancient fauna.

Circumstantially, the close correlation in time between the appearance of humans in an area and extinction there provides weight for this scenario. For example, the woolly mammoth survived on islands despite changing climatic conditions for thousands of years after the end of the last glaciation, but they died out when humans arrived around 1700 BC. The megafaunal extinctions covered a vast period of time and highly variable climatic situations. The earliest extinctions in Australia
Australia
were complete approximately 50,000 BP, well before the last glacial maximum and before rises in temperature. The most recent extinction in New Zealand
New Zealand
was complete no earlier than 500 BP and during a period of cooling. In between these extremes megafaunal extinctions have occurred progressively in such places as North America, South America
South America
and Madagascar
Madagascar
with no climatic commonality. The only common factor that can be ascertained is the arrival of humans. This phenomenon appears even within regions. The mammal extinction wave in Australia
Australia
about 50,000 years ago coincides not with known climatic changes, but with the arrival of humans. In addition, large mammal species like the giant kangaroo Protemnodon appear to have succumbed sooner on the Australian mainland than on Tasmania, which was colonised by humans a few thousand years later.

Worldwide, extinctions seem to follow the migration of humans and to be most severe where humans arrived most recently and least severe where humans originated — in Africa
Africa
(see figure "March of Man" below). This suggests that prey animals and human hunting ability evolved together, so the animals evolved avoidance techniques. As humans migrated throughout the world and became more and more proficient at hunting, they encountered animals that had evolved without the presence of humans. Lacking the fear of humans that African animals had developed, animals outside of Africa
Africa
were easy prey for human hunting techniques. It also suggests that this is independent of climate change.

Extinction
Extinction
through human hunting has been supported by archaeological finds of mammoths with projectile points embedded in their skeletons, by observations of modern naïve animals allowing hunters to approach easily and by computer models by Mosimann and Martin, and Whittington and Dyke, and most recently by Alroy.

A 2015, a study supported the hypothesis further by running several thousand scenarios that correlated the time windows in which each species is known to have become extinct with the arrival of humans on different continents or islands. This was compared against climate reconstructions for the last 90,000 years. The researchers found correlations of human spread and species extinction indicating that the human impact was the main cause of the extinction, while climate change exacerbated the frequency of extinctions. The study, however, found an apparently low extinction rate in the fossil record of mainland Asia.

OVERKILL HYPOTHESIS

The timing of extinctions follows the "March of Man"

The overkill hypothesis, a variant of the hunting hypothesis, was proposed 40 years ago by Paul S. Martin , Professor of Geosciences Emeritus at the Desert Laboratory of the University of Arizona
University of Arizona
.

OBJECTIONS TO THE HUNTING HYPOTHESIS

The major objections to the theory are as follows:

* In predator-prey models it is unlikely that predators could over-hunt their prey, since predators need their prey as food to sustain life and to reproduce. This criticism has been rejected by many ecologists because humans have the widest dietary choice of any predator and are perfectly capable of switching to alternative prey or even plant foods when any prey species becomes rare. Humans have indisputably hunted numerous species to extinction, which renders any argument that human predators can never hunt prey to extinction immediately invalid. * There is no archeological evidence that in North America
North America
megafauna other than mammoths, mastodons, gomphotheres and bison were hunted, despite the fact, that for example camels and horses are very frequently reported in fossil history. Overkill proponents, however, say this is due to the fast extinction process in North America
North America
and the low probability of animals with signs of butchery to be preserved. Additionally, biochemical analyses have shown that Clovis tools were used in butchering horses and camels. A study by Surovell and Grund concluded "archaeological sites dating to the time of the coexistence of humans and extinct fauna are rare. Those that preserve bone are considerably more rare, and of those, only a very few show unambiguous evidence of human hunting of any type of prey whatsoever." * A small number of animals that were hunted, such as a single species of bison , did not go extinct. This cannot be explained by proposing that surviving bison in North America
North America
were recent Eurasian immigrants that were familiar with human hunting practices, since Bison
Bison
first appeared in North America
North America
approximately 240,000 years ago and then evolved into living bison. Bison
Bison
at the end of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
were thus likely to have been almost as naive as their native North American megafaunal companions. * The dwarfing of animals is not explained by overkill. Numerous authors, however, have pointed out that dwarfing of animals is perfectly well explained by humans selectively harvesting the largest animals, and have provided proof that even within the 20th century numerous animal populations have reduced in average size due to human hunting. * Eurasian Pleistocene
Pleistocene
megafauna became extinct in roughly same time period despite having a much longer time to adapt to hunting pressure by humans. However, the extinction of the Eurasian megafauna can be viewed as a result of a different process than that of the American megafauna. This makes the theory less parsimonious since another mechanism is required. The latter case occurred after the sudden appearance of modern human hunters on a land mass they had never previously inhabited, while the former case was the culmination of the gradual northward movement of human hunters over thousands of years as their technology for enduring extreme cold and bringing down big game improved. Thus, while the hunting hypothesis does not necessarily predict the rough simultaneity of the north Eurasian and American megafaunal extinctions, this simultaneity cannot be regarded as evidence against it. * Eugene S. Hunn points out that the birthrate in hunter-gatherer societies is generally too low, that too much effort is involved in the bringing down of a large animal by a hunting party, and that in order for hunter-gatherers to have brought about the extinction of megafauna simply by hunting them to death, an extraordinary amount of meat would have had to have been wasted. It is possible that those who advocate the overkill hypothesis simply have not considered the differences in outlook between typical forager (hunter-gatherer) cultures and the present-day industrial cultures which exist in modernized human societies; waste may be tolerated and even encouraged in the latter, but is not so much in the former. It may be noted that in relatively recent human history, for instance, the Lakota of North America were known to take only as much bison as they could use, and they used virtually the whole animal—this despite having access to herds numbering in the millions. Conversely, "buffalo jumps " featured indiscriminate killing of a herd. However, Hunn's comments are in reference to a hunter-prey equilibrium state reached after thousands of years of coexistence, and are not relevant to hunters newly arrived on a virgin land mass full of easily taken big game. The well-established practice of industrial-scale moa butchering by the early Maori, involving enormous wastage of less choice portions of the meat, indicates that these arguments are incorrect. * The hypothesis that the Clovis culture
Clovis culture
represented the first humans to arrive in the New World has been disputed recently. (See Settlement of the Americas
Americas
.) However, they were certainly the first to leave abundant widespread evidence of their presence.

CLIMATE CHANGE HYPOTHESIS

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, when scientists first realized that there had been glacial and interglacial ages, and that they were somehow associated with the prevalence or disappearance of certain animals, they surmised that the termination of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
ice age might be an explanation for the extinctions.

Critics object that since there were multiple glacial advances and withdrawals in the evolutionary history of many of the megafauna, it is rather implausible that only after the last glacial would there be such extinctions. However, this criticism is rejected by a recent study indicating that terminal Pleistocene
Pleistocene
megafaunal community composition may have differed markedly from faunas present during earlier interglacials, particularly with respect to the great abundance and geographic extent of Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Bison
Bison
at the end of the epoch. This suggests that the survival of megafaunal populations during earlier interglacials is essentially irrelevant to the terminal Pleistocene
Pleistocene
extinction event, because bison were not present in similar abundance during any of the earlier interglacials.

Some evidence weighs against climate change as a valid hypothesis as applied to Australia. It has been shown that the prevailing climate at the time of extinction (40,000–50,000 BP) was similar to that of today, and that the extinct animals were strongly adapted to an arid climate. The evidence indicates that all of the extinctions took place in the same short time period, which was the time when humans entered the landscape. The main mechanism for extinction was probably fire (started by humans) in a then much less fire-adapted landscape. Isotopic evidence shows sudden changes in the diet of surviving species, which could correspond to the stress they experienced before extinction.

Evidence in Southeast Asia, in contrast to Europe, Australia, and the Americas, suggests that climate change and an increasing sea level were significant factors in the extinction of several herbivorous species. Alterations in vegetation growth and new access routes for early humans and mammals to previously isolated, localized ecosystems were detrimental to select groups of fauna.

Some evidence obtained from analysis of the tusks of mastodons from the American Great Lakes region appears inconsistent with the climate change hypothesis. Over a span of several thousand years prior to their extinction in the area, the mastodons show a trend of declining age at maturation. This is the opposite of what one would expect if they were experiencing stresses from deteriorating environmental conditions, but is consistent with a reduction in intraspecific competition that would result from a population being reduced by human hunting.

INCREASED TEMPERATURE

The most obvious change associated with the termination of an ice age is the increase in temperature. Between 15,000 BP and 10,000 BP, a 6 °C increase in global mean annual temperatures occurred. This was generally thought to be the cause of the extinctions.

According to this hypothesis, a temperature increase sufficient to melt the Wisconsin ice sheet could have placed enough thermal stress on cold-adapted mammals to cause them to die. Their heavy fur, which helps conserve body heat in the glacial cold, might have prevented the dumping of excess heat, causing the mammals to die of heat exhaustion. Large mammals, with their reduced surface area-to-volume ratio , would have fared worse than small mammals.

A study covering the past 56,000 years indicates that rapid warming events with temperature changes of up to 16°C (29°F) had an important impact on the extinction of megafauna. Ancient DNA and radiocarbon data indicates that local genetic populations were replaced by others within the same species or by others within the same genus. Survival of populations was dependent on the existence of refugia and long distance dispersals, which may have been disrupted by human hunters.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE TEMPERATURE HYPOTHESIS

Studies propose that the annual mean temperature of the current interglacial that we have seen for the last 10,000 years is no higher than that of previous interglacials, yet some of the same large mammals survived similar temperature increases. Therefore, warmer temperatures alone may not be a sufficient explanation.

In addition, numerous species such as mammoths on Wrangel Island and St. Paul Island survived in human-free refugia despite changes in climate. This would not be expected if climate change were responsible (unless their maritime climates offered some protection against climate change not afforded to coastal populations on the mainland). Under normal ecological assumptions island populations should be more vulnerable to extinction due to climate change because of small populations and an inability to migrate to more favorable climes.

INCREASED CONTINENTALITY AFFECTS VEGETATION IN TIME OR SPACE

Other scientists have proposed that increasingly extreme weather—hotter summers and colder winters—referred to as "continentality ", or related changes in rainfall caused the extinctions. The various hypotheses are outlined below.

Vegetation Changes: Geographic

It has been shown that vegetation changed from mixed woodland -parkland to separate prairie and woodland. This may have affected the kinds of food available. Shorter growing seasons may have caused the extinction of large herbivores and the dwarfing of many others. In this case, as observed, bison and other large ruminants would have fared better than horses, elephants and other monogastrics , because ruminants are able to extract more nutrition from limited quantities of high-fiber food and better able to deal with anti-herbivory toxins . So, in general, when vegetation becomes more specialized, herbivores with less diet flexibility may be less able to find the mix of vegetation they need to sustain life and reproduce, within a given area.

Rainfall Changes: Time

Increased continentality resulted in reduced and less predictable rainfall limiting the availability of plants necessary for energy and nutrition. Axelrod and Slaughter have suggested that this change in rainfall restricted the amount of time favorable for reproduction. This could disproportionately harm large animals, since they have longer, more inflexible mating periods, and so may have produced young at unfavorable seasons (i.e., when sufficient food, water, or shelter was unavailable because of shifts in the growing season). In contrast, small mammals, with their shorter life cycles , shorter reproductive cycles , and shorter gestation periods, could have adjusted to the increased unpredictability of the climate, both as individuals and as species which allowed them to synchronize their reproductive efforts with conditions favorable for offspring survival. If so, smaller mammals would have lost fewer offspring and would have been better able to repeat the reproductive effort when circumstances once more favored offspring survival.

In 2017 a study looked at the environmental conditions across Europe, Siberia
Siberia
and the Americas
Americas
from 25,000-10,000 YBP. The study found that prolonged warming events leading to deglaciation and maximum rainfall occurred just prior to the transformation of the rangelands that supported megaherbivores into widespread wetlands that supported herbivore-resistant plants. The study proposes that moisture-driven environmental change led to the megafaunal extinctions and that Africa's trans-equatorial position allowed rangeland to continue to exist between the deserts and the central forests, therefore fewer megafauna species became extinct there.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE CONTINENTALITY HYPOTHESES

Critics have identified a number of problems with the continentality hypotheses.

* Megaherbivores have prospered at other times of continental climate. For example, megaherbivores thrived in Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Siberia
Siberia
, which had and has a more continental climate than Pleistocene
Pleistocene
or modern (post-Pleistocene, interglacial) North America. * The animals that became extinct actually should have prospered during the shift from mixed woodland-parkland to prairie, because their primary food source, grass, was increasing rather than decreasing. Although the vegetation did become more spatially specialized, the amount of prairie and grass available increased, which would have been good for horses and for mammoths, and yet they became extinct. This criticism ignores the increased abundance and broad geographic extent of Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Bison
Bison
at the end of the Pleistocene, which would have increased competition for these resources in a manner not seen in any earlier interglacials. * Although horses became extinct in the New World, they were successfully reintroduced by the Spanish in the 16th century—into a modern post-Pleistocene, interglacial climate. Today there are feral horses still living in those same environments. They find a sufficient mix of food to avoid toxins, they extract enough nutrition from forage to reproduce effectively and the timing of their gestation is not an issue. Of course, this criticism ignores the obvious fact that present-day horses are not competing for resources with ground sloths, mammoths, mastodons, camels, llamas, and bison. Similarly, mammoths survived the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Holocene
Holocene
transition on isolated, uninhabited islands in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
and on Wrangel Island in the Siberian Arctic
Arctic
until 4,000 to 7,000 years ago. * Large mammals should have been able to migrate, permanently or seasonally, if they found the temperature too extreme, the breeding season too short, or the rainfall too sparse or unpredictable. Seasons vary geographically. By migrating away from the equator , herbivores could have found areas with growing seasons more favorable for finding food and breeding successfully. Modern-day African elephants migrate during periods of drought to places where there is apt to be water. * Large animals store more fat in their bodies than do medium-sized animals and this should have allowed them to compensate for extreme seasonal fluctuations in food availability.

The extinction of the megafauna could have caused the disappearance of the mammoth steppe . Alaska now has low nutrient soil unable to support bison, mammoths, and horses. R. Dale Guthrie has claimed this as a cause of the extinction of the megafauna there; however, he may be interpreting it backwards. The loss of large herbivores to break up the permafrost allows the cold soils that are unable to support large herbivores today. Today, in the arctic, where trucks have broken the permafrost grasses and diverse flora and fauna can be supported. In addition, Chapin (Chapin 1980) showed that simply adding fertilizer to the soil in Alaska could make grasses grow again like they did in the era of the mammoth steppe. Possibly, the extinction of the megafauna and the corresponding loss of dung is what led to low nutrient levels in modern-day soil and therefore is why the landscape can no longer support megafauna.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST BOTH CLIMATE CHANGE AND OVERKILL

It may be observed that neither the overkill nor the climate change hypotheses can fully explain events: browsers , mixed feeders and non-ruminant grazer species suffered most, while relatively more ruminant grazers survived. However, a broader variation of the overkill hypothesis may predict this, because changes in vegetation wrought by either Second Order Predation (see below) or anthropogenic fire preferentially selects against browse species.

HYPERDISEASE HYPOTHESIS

THEORY

The Hyperdisease Hypothesis attributes the extinction of large mammals during the late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
to indirect effects of the newly arrived aboriginal humans . The Hyperdisease Hypothesis proposes that humans or animals traveling with them (e.g., chickens or domestic dogs) introduced one or more highly virulent diseases into vulnerable populations of native mammals, eventually causing extinctions. The extinction was biased toward larger-sized species because smaller species have greater resilience because of their life history traits (e.g., shorter gestation time, greater population sizes, etc.). Humans are thought to be the cause because other earlier immigrations of mammals into North America
North America
from Eurasia
Eurasia
did not cause extinctions.

Diseases imported by people have been responsible for extinctions in the recent past; for example, bringing avian malaria to Hawaii has had a major impact on the isolated birds of the island.

If a disease was indeed responsible for the end-Pleistocene extinctions, then there are several criteria it must satisfy (see Table 7.3 in MacPhee "> Combination Hypotheses: Climate Change, Overkill + Climate Change, Second-Order Predation + Climate Change Overkill Hypothesis and Second-Order Predation

SCENARIO

The Second-Order Predation Hypothesis says that as humans entered the New World they continued their policy of killing predators, which had been successful in the Old World
Old World
but because they were more efficient and because the fauna, both herbivores and carnivores, were more naive, they killed off enough carnivores to upset the ecological balance of the continent, causing overpopulation , environmental exhaustion, and environmental collapse. The hypothesis accounts for changes in animal, plant, and human populations.

The scenario is as follows:

* After the arrival of H. sapiens in the New World, existing predators must share the prey populations with this new predator. Because of this competition, populations of original, or first-order, predators cannot find enough food; they are in direct competition with humans. * Second-order predation begins as humans begin to kill predators. * Prey populations are no longer well controlled by predation. Killing of nonhuman predators by H. sapiens reduces their numbers to a point where these predators no longer regulate the size of the prey populations. * Lack of regulation by first-order predators triggers boom-and-bust cycles in prey populations. Prey populations expand and consequently overgraze and over-browse the land. Soon the environment is no longer able to support them. As a result, many herbivores starve. Species that rely on the slowest recruiting food become extinct, followed by species that cannot extract the maximum benefit from every bit of their food. * Boom-bust cycles in herbivore populations change the nature of the vegetative environment, with consequent climatic impacts on relative humidity and continentality. Through overgrazing and overbrowsing, mixed parkland becomes grassland, and climatic continentality increases.

SUPPORT

This has been supported by a computer model, the Pleistocene Extinction
Extinction
Model (PEM), which, using the same assumptions and values for all variables (herbivore population, herbivore recruitment rates, food needed per human, herbivore hunting rates, etc.) other than those for hunting of predators. It compares the Overkill hypothesis (predator hunting = 0) with Second-Order Predation (predator hunting varied between 0.01 and 0.05 for different runs). The findings are that Second Order-Predation is more consistent with extinction than is Overkill (results graph at left).

The PEM is the only test of multiple hypotheses and is the only model to specifically test combination hypotheses by artificially introducing sufficient climate change to cause extinction. When Overkill and Climate Change are combined they balance each other out. Climate Change reduces the number of plants, Overkill removes animals, therefore fewer plants are eaten. Second-Order Predation combined with Climate Change exacerbates the effect of Climate Change. (results graph at right).

The second-order predation hypothesis is supported by the observation above that there was a massive increase in bison populations.

SECOND-ORDER PREDATION AND OTHER THEORIES

* CLIMATE CHANGE: Second-Order Predation accounts for the changes in vegetation, which in turn may account for the increase in continentality. Since the extinction is due to destruction of habitat it accounts for the loss of animals not hunted by humans. Second-Order Predation accounts for the dwarfing of animals as well as extinctions since animals that could survive and reproduce on less food would be selectively favored. * HYPERDISEASE: The reduction of carnivores could have been from distemper or other carnivore disease carried by domestic dogs. * OVERKILL: The observation that extinctions follow the arrival of humans is consistent with the Second-Order Predation hypothesis.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE SECOND-ORDER PREDATION HYPOTHESIS

* The model specifically assumes high extinction rates in grasslands, but most extinct species ranged across numerous vegetation zones. Historical population densities of ungulates were very high in the Great Plains; savanna environments support high ungulate diversity throughout Africa, and extinction intensity was equally severe in forested environments. * It is unable to explain why large herbivore populations were not regulated by surviving carnivores such as grizzly bears, wolves, pumas, and jaguars whose populations would have increased rapidly in response to the loss of competitors. * It does not explain why almost all extinct carnivores were large herbivore specialists such as sabre toothed cats and short faced bears, but most hypocarnivores and generalized carnivores survived. * There is no historical evidence of boom and bust cycles causing even local extinctions in regions where large mammal predators have been driven extinct by hunting. The recent hunting out of remaining predators throughout most of the United States
United States
has not caused massive vegetational change or dramatic boom and bust cycles in ungulates. * It is not spatially explicit and does not track predator and prey species separately, whereas the multispecies overkill model does both. * The multispecies model produces a mass extinction through indirect competition between herbivore species: small species with high reproductive rates subsidize predation on large species with low reproductive rates. All prey species are lumped in the Pleistocene Extinction
Extinction
Model. * Everything explained by the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Extinction
Extinction
Model also is explained by the multispecies model, but with fewer assumptions, so the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Extinction
Extinction
Model appears less parsimonious. However, the multispecies model does not explain shifts in vegetation, nor is it able to simulate alternative hypotheses. The multispecies model therefore necessitates additional assumptions and hence is less parsimonious.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE SECOND-ORDER PREDATION PLUS CLIMATE HYPOTHESIS

* It assumes decreases in vegetation due to climate change, but deglaciation doubled the habitable area of North America. * Any vegetational changes that did occur failed to cause almost any extinctions of small vertebrates, and they are more narrowly distributed on average.

COMET HYPOTHESIS

Main article: Younger Dryas
Younger Dryas
impact event

First publicly presented at the Spring 2007 joint assembly of the American Geophysical Union
American Geophysical Union
in Acapulco, Mexico, the comet hypothesis suggests that the mass extinction was caused by a swarm of comets 12,900 years ago. Using photomicrograph analysis, research published in January 2009 has found evidence of nanodiamonds in the soil from six sites across North America
North America
including Arizona, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and two Canadian sites. Similar research found nanodiamonds in the Greenland
Greenland
ice sheet .

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE COMET HYPOTHESIS

Debate around this hypothesis has included, among other things, the lack of an impact crater, relatively small increased level of iridium in the soil, and the relative probability of such an event.

* There is a lack of evidence for a population decline among the Paleoindians at 12,900 ± 100 calBP as might be expected. * There is evidence that the megafaunal extinctions that occurred across northern Eurasia, North America
North America
and South America
South America
at the end of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
were not synchronous as the bolide theory would predict. The extinctions in South America
South America
appear to have occurred at least 400 years after those in North America. * Additionally, some island megafaunal populations survived thousands of years longer than populations of the same or related species on nearby continents; examples include the survival of woolly mammoths on Wrangel Island until 3700 BP, and the survival of ground sloths in the Antilles
Antilles
until 4700 cal BP. * Several markers for the proposed impact event are disputed by most scientists. They have asserted that the carbon spherules originated as fungal structures and/or insect fecal pellets, and that the claimed nanodiamonds are actually misidentified graphene and graphene/graphane oxide aggregates. An analysis of a similar Younger Dryas
Younger Dryas
boundary layer in Belgium also did not show evidence of a bolide impact. Researchers have also not found any extraterrestrial platinum group metals in the boundary layer; this absence is inconsistent with the hypothesized impact event.

SEE ALSO

* Australian megafauna * Late Quaternary prehistoric birds * List of quaternary mammalian fauna of China
China
* Megafauna
Megafauna
* Pleistocene
Pleistocene
megafauna * Pleistocene
Pleistocene
rewilding * Toba catastrophe theory
Toba catastrophe theory

REFERENCES

* ^ Kolbert, Elizabeth (2014). The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History . Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9780805092998 . * ^ Koch, Paul L.; Barnosky, Anthony D. (2006-01-01). "Late Quaternary Extinctions: State of the Debate". Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 37 (1): 215–250. doi :10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.34.011802.132415 . * ^ Vignieri, S. (25 July 2014). "Vanishing fauna ( Special
Special
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EXTERNAL LINKS

HYPERDISEASE HYPOTHESIS

* "American Museum of Natural History". * J.H. Brown (University of New Mexico). "Was a hyperdisease responsible?" (PDF).

SECOND-ORDER PREDATION

* Elin Whitney-Smith. "Quaternary.Net".

OTHER LINKS

* "Widespread Platinum across continent at Younger Dryas". * "Ice Age Bay Area". * "The Extinct Late Pleistocene
Pleistocene
Mammals of North America".

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