A team of researchers from the United States and Australia has managed to find out that the woolly mammoth was not actually killed by human hunter, but by sudden climate changes. Researchers say that this study confirms the idea that the severity of climate change is not as important as the speed and this can highly impact our climate which is influenced by global warming.
The scientists found that during the last ice age, also known as Pleistocene, which lasted from 60.000 to 12.000 ago, the major extinction of woolly mammoths coincided with interstadials, which were rapid warming events that lasted for a short period of time.
Alan Cooper, the director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA and the lead author of the study, explained that this abrupt warming highly influenced the climate which consequently changed vegetation patterns and global rainfall. He also added:
“Even without the presence of humans we saw mass extinctions. When you add the modern addition of human pressures and fragmenting of the environment to the rapid changes brought by global warming, it raises serious concerns about the future of our environment.”
The co-author of the study Chris Turney from the University of New South Wales said that it should also be considered that man played an important role in the mass extinction.
Besides offering insight into how to woolly mammoth ceased to exist with the help of new data and new statistical methods the study also created an incredibly accurate record of species movement and climate change during Pleistocene. The paper published in the journal Science is the first one which connected a certain climate event with the localized extinction of megafauna.
For the research the scientists compared data about ancient megafaunal DNA with radiocarbon offering detailed geological information about severe climate events from ancient sediments and ice cores.
Professor Chris Field is the founding director of the Carnegie Institutions Department of Global Ecology. He was not involved in the study, but he appreciated how detailed the study was. He confessed that he was impressed with the findings.
Field also added that ancient humans did not play a major part in the interstadial warming, but at present modern humans are recreating that type of rapid climate change.
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