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Dwindling green pastures, not hunting, may have killed off the mammoth
Date:8/18/2010

asia, Alaska and Yukon to less productive tundra-like habitats had a huge effect on many species, particularly on the large herbivores like the woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth. Mammoths and other mega-mammals found it increasingly difficult to find food.

"We believe that the loss of food supplies from productive grasslands was the major contributing factor to the extinction of these mega-mammals."

The Durham University-led team, including scientists from The Natural History Museum, London; Lund University, Sweden, and Bristol University, publish their results in the prestigious scientific journal, Quaternary Science Reviews.

Their study, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), looked at ancient pollen records and they also simulated developments in vegetation and habitat linked to climatic change, during and following the last glacial stage.

The team looked at results for a vast geographic area including Eurasia (Europe and northern Asia) and the area of the Bering land bridge that connected Alaska (USA) and the Yukon (Canada) to Siberia, Russia at the height of the last glacial.

They found the post-glacial warming of the planet coupled with an associated change to a moister climate and with increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulted in the proliferation of trees and the subsequent decline in grasslands the staple diet and fodder of large herbivores. The decline in herbivores had knock-on effects for other parts of the food chain.

Different theories exist for the cause of the extinction of mega-species like the mammoth. The rise of modern man, Homo sapiens, is cited by some as a potential cause.

Environmental changes have also been considered as a potential factor in the extinction of mega-herbivores such as the mammoth. This new evidence of massive habitat change linked to climatic change is, according to experts, a parable for modern times.

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Contact: Carl Stiansen
c.r.stiansen@durham.ac.uk
44-191-334-6077
Durham University
Source:Eurekalert

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