Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Helping unravel causes of Ice Age extinctions

Date:
November 2, 2011
Source:
Texas A&M University
Summary:
Did climate change or humans cause the extinctions of the large-bodied Ice Age mammals such as the woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth? Scientists have for years debated the reasons behind the Ice Age mass extinctions, which caused the loss of a third of the large mammals in Eurasia and two thirds of the large mammals in North America.

Did climate change or humans cause the extinctions of the large-bodied Ice Age mammals (commonly called megafauna) such as the woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth? Scientists have for years debated the reasons behind the Ice Age mass extinctions, which caused the loss of a third of the large mammals in Eurasia and two thirds of the large mammals in North America.

Related Articles


Now, an interdisciplinary team from more than 40 universities around the world led by Professor Eske Willerslev and his group from the Centre for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, has tried to answer the contentious question in one of the biggest studies of its kind ever.

The study by the team, which includes two Texas A&M University professors, is published online in the journal Nature and reveals dramatically different responses of Ice Age species to climate change and human impact. Using ancient DNA, species distribution models and the human fossil record, the findings indicate that neither climate nor humans alone can account for the Ice Age mass extinctions.

"Our findings put a final end to the single-cause theories of these extinctions," says Willserslev. "Our data suggest care should be taken in making generalizations regarding past and present species extinctions; the relative impacts of climate change and human encroachment on species extinctions really depend on which species we're looking at."

The study reports that climate alone caused extinctions of woolly rhinoceros and musk ox in Eurasia, but a combination of climate and humans played a part in the loss of bison in Siberia and wild horse. While the reindeer remain relatively unaffected by any of these factors, the reasons causes of the extinction of the mammoth remain unresolved.

The study also reports that climate change has been intrinsically linked with major population size changes over the past 50,000 years, supporting the view that populations of many species will decline in the future owing to climate change and habitat loss. Finally, the authors find no clear pattern in their data distinguishing species that went extinct from species that survived.

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

"The bottom line is that we really don't know why some of these ancient species became extinct," adds Ted Goebel, researcher in the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M and affiliated with the Center for the Study of First Americans.

"Now we can better predict what might happen to animals in the future as climate change occurs. What happens to species when their ranges are significantly diminished, and why do some animals adapt successfully while others become extinct? We now have a genetic roadmap to follow in our efforts to protect sensitive animal populations -- especially in drastically impacted regions like the Arctic."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eline D. Lorenzen, David Noguιs-Bravo, Ludovic Orlando, Jaco Weinstock, Jonas Binladen, Katharine A. Marske, Andrew Ugan, Michael K. Borregaard, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Rasmus Nielsen, Simon Y. W. Ho, Ted Goebel, Kelly E. Graf, David Byers, Jesper T. Stenderup, Morten Rasmussen, Paula F. Campos, Jennifer A. Leonard, Klaus-Peter Koepfli, Duane Froese, Grant Zazula, Thomas W. Stafford, Kim Aaris-Sψrensen, Persaram Batra, Alan M. Haywood, Joy S. Singarayer, Paul J. Valdes, Gennady Boeskorov, James A. Burns, Sergey P. Davydov, James Haile, Dennis L. Jenkins, Pavel Kosintsev, Tatyana Kuznetsova, Xulong Lai, Larry D. Martin, H. Gregory McDonald, Dick Mol, Morten Meldgaard, Kasper Munch, Elisabeth Stephan, Mikhail Sablin, Robert S. Sommer, Taras Sipko, Eric Scott, Marc A. Suchard, Alexei Tikhonov, Rane Willerslev, Robert K. Wayne, Alan Cooper, Michael Hofreiter, Andrei Sher, Beth Shapiro, Carsten Rahbek, Eske Willerslev. Species-specific responses of Late Quaternary megafauna to climate and humans. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10574

Cite This Page:

Texas A&M University. "Helping unravel causes of Ice Age extinctions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102161253.htm>.
Texas A&M University. (2011, November 2). Helping unravel causes of Ice Age extinctions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102161253.htm
Texas A&M University. "Helping unravel causes of Ice Age extinctions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102161253.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) — Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) — A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) — A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) — Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

More Coverage


Unraveling the Causes of the Ice Age Megafauna Extinctions

Nov. 2, 2011 — Was it humans or climate change that caused the extinctions of the iconic Ice Age mammals (megafauna) such as the woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth? For decades, scientists have been debating the ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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