Like all long dead animals, the scientific community has many unanswered questions about the mammoths. But one questioned that field experts recently managed to answer is what killed these massive animals. A new study showed that abrupt climate change is to blame.
This is a remarkable finding that shuts down the leading theory that ancient humans hunted them all until there were none to be found. There have also been theories throughout the decades that have blamed climate change, however this is the first study to actually prove the theory and settle the debate.
More precisely, the research team informed that a natural rapid warming faze took place roughly 60.000 years ago and caused animals in the megafauna (mammoths, mastodons and giant sloths) to go extinct.
The experts stress that this conclusion illustrates once again the nefarious effects that abrupt climate change can easily have on the animals living on our planet. This is an issue of particular importance as mankind is currently causing its first ever global warming phenomenon and threatening the continued existence of countless species.
Chris Field, founder and director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, gave a statement saying that “The real message here is that rapid changes are really tough, and [species] can get outrun by the climate changes”.
For their study, the researchers analyzed ancient megafaunal DNA and compared it to detailed geological records of radiocarbon and severe climate events. What they noticed was that the death of large animals in the megafauna coincided with quick and sudden warming events that took place towards the end of the Pleistocene (the last Ice Age the Earth experienced).
While the last living mammoths are belied to have died roughly 11.000 years ago, the gradual extinction process may have started as early as 60.000 years ago. The main suspects are specific short-term fazes referred to as “interstadials”. These periods may have involved temperature jumps of anywhere between seven (7) and 29 degrees Fahrenheit, and prevented the animals from adapting fast enough to the new living conditions.
Alan Cooper, study lead author and director of the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, gave a statement of his own explaining that abrupt warning had a huge impact on the climate and caused marked shifts in the global vegetation patterns and rainfall.
It is worth mentioning that the same species seems to have gone extinct in different regions of the world during different centuries, which reveals that mankind still played a role in their demise after all, just not one as big as previously believed.
The study was published earlier this week, on Thursday (July 23, 2015), in the journal Science.
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