Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate Change And Human Hunting Combine To Drive The Woolly Mammoth Extinct

Date:
April 1, 2008
Source:
PLoS Biology
Summary:
Climate models together with population models provide quantitative evidence that the combined effects of climate change and anthropogenic pressures can explain the extinction of the woolly mammoths.

Woolly mammoths were driven to extinction by climate change and human impacts.
Credit: Mauricio Anton

Does the human species have mammoth blood on its hands? Scientists have long debated the relative importance of hunting by our ancestors and change in global climate in consigning the mammoth to the history books. A new paper uses climate models and fossil distribution to establish that the woolly mammoth went extinct primarily because of loss of habitat due to changes in temperature, while human hunting acted as the final straw.

It has been particularly difficult to untangle these two potential causes of extinction, as climate change and increased human hunting are linked. When the climate in mammoth territory started to become too warm for the furry beast, it allowed humans--who couldn't handle the lower, mammoth-friendly temperatures--to move into the area.

Therefore, the mammoth faced the heat and predation pressure from hunting in the same regions at approximately the same times, making it difficult to test the importance of the two factors independently. It had also been argued that, as the mammoth had survived many temperature fluctuations previous to those that coincided with its demise, it was only human hunting that was a substantially different condition that could have caused the extinction of the species.

Work by David Nogues-Bravo and colleagues has ended the debate, by using mathematical modelling to separate the two factors. They predicted climate and species distribution at different times in mammoth history--126,000, 42,000, 30,000, 21,000, and 6,000 years ago--considering temperature and rainfall simulations alongside the age and locations of fossils. The results show that the mammoth suffered a catastrophic loss of habitat, with the species 6,000 years ago relegated to 10% of the habitat available to it 42,000 years ago (when the glaciers were at their biggest).

In fact, things were much worse for the mammoth 126,000 years ago when globally high temperatures restricted its habitat even more than at 6,000 years ago. At both of these times, the climate-related habitat loss would have forced the species to the brink of extinction. The nail in the mammoth's coffin 6,000 years ago was that, during the later extinction crisis, the mammoth also faced evolutionarily modern humans. Nogues-Bravo et al. estimate that, for an optimistic estimate of mammoth numbers 6000 years ago, humans would only have had to kill one mammoth each every three years to push the species to extinction. If they are pessimistic about mammoth-climate survival, that figure reaches one mammoth per human every 200 years.

Thus, it seems that, in the case of the mammoth, it was the climate that forced the species to the point of extinction, and it was mankind that gave the woolly beast the last shove into oblivion.

Journal reference: Nogués-Bravo D, Rodríguez J, Hortal J, Batra P, Araújo MB (2008) Climate change, humans, and the extinction of the woolly mammoth. PLoS Biol 6(4): e79. doi:10. 1371/journal.pbio.0060079


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by PLoS Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

PLoS Biology. "Climate Change And Human Hunting Combine To Drive The Woolly Mammoth Extinct." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080331223843.htm>.
PLoS Biology. (2008, April 1). Climate Change And Human Hunting Combine To Drive The Woolly Mammoth Extinct. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080331223843.htm
PLoS Biology. "Climate Change And Human Hunting Combine To Drive The Woolly Mammoth Extinct." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080331223843.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) — We all know that it is important to eat our fruits and vegetables but do you know which ones are the best for you? Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) — MIT researchers were able to change whether bad memories in mice made them anxious by flicking an emotional switch in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Couples Who Smoke Weed Together Stay Together?

Do Couples Who Smoke Weed Together Stay Together?

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) — A study out of University at Buffalo claims couples who smoke marijuana are less likely to experience intimate partner violence. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) — A panda in China showed pregnancy symptoms that disappeared after two months of observation. One theory: Her pseudopregnancy was a ploy for perks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins