Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on December 28, 2008
If you think animal extinction due to climate change is a new phenomenon, think again. Take for example the woolly mammoth. It’s long been accepted that this ancient creature was driven into smaller and smaller habitats by the earth’s rising temperatures during and after the Pleistocene era, nearly 10,000 years ago.
But a new study suggests that humans may have put the nail on the fate of the enormous long-haired mammoth’s coffin by hunting it to extinction about 4,000 years ago. David Nogués-Bravo of Madrid’s National Museum of Natural Sciences says recent “robust paleoclimatic simulations” have allowed scientists to track historical climates, which has given new insight into the woolly mammoth’s habitat. And to our own.
According to National Geographic, “the researchers charted the climate and distribution time line of the mammoth from 126,000 to 6,000 years ago by modeling ocean currents, rainfall, and other factors.” (Which, incidently, is similar to the way scientists are able to predict the effects of our current climate crisis.) It’s now believed that humans entered the habitat of the mammoth about 40,000 years ago when warmer, wetter weather collapsed the “animals’ cold, dry tundra habitat in Eurasia and North America”.
As the forests expanded northward, it began wiping out the shrubby plants on which the mammoths feasted. According to Nogués-Bravo: “as an herbivore feeding on coarse tundra vegetation, the woolly mammoth had huge specialized teeth and a lower jaw that swung back and forward to shred plants.”
While Nogués-Bravo can’t say definitively that humans ultimately brought about the mammoth’s extinction, he does “point out the species adapted to an earlier collapse of favorable environmental conditions before humans emerged.”
What point is there in speculating about a long-extinct creature, you ask? Nogués-Bravo says this knowledge is helpful to scientists studying modern day global warming.
And it’s also good to know that we’re not the only callous human generation to have carelessly driven a species to extinction.
(via National Geographic)