Neither climate nor humans alone caused Ice Age mass extinctionsPublished On: Thu, Nov 3rd, 2011 | Climate Change | By BioNews
An inter-disciplinary team from more than 40 universities around the world have put an end to the controversial single-cause theories of Ice Age mass extinctions.
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.
They have been arguing on whether climate change or humans are responsible for the extinctions of the large-bodied Ice Age mammals (commonly called megafauna) such as the woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth.
Now the study, led by Professor Eske Willerslev and his group from the Centre for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, has revealed 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 indicated that neither climate nor humans alone could account for the Ice Age mass extinctions.
“Our findings put a final end to the single-cause theories of these extinctions,” said Willserslev.
The study reported 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 has been published online today in the journal Nature.