Humans Killed Off Last Mammoths

May 25, 2008 02:24 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Climate change and human actions appear to have led to the demise of the woolly mammoth.  Does a similar fate await today’s endangered species?

30-Second Summary

"We're arguing that it's sort of a combination. Climate change probably didn't do it completely, but it made their life so precarious that humans could come in and kill them off," said Persaram Batra, a climate modeler at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, who worked on the study.

The findings have ended a longstanding debate over the disappearance of these ancient members of the elephant family. Researchers say that mammoth populations suffered most around 8,000 to 6,000 years ago, when the Earth was coming out of a glacial period. Global warming turned the dry steppe tundra, where the animals lived, into mosses and forests, as reported in an MSNBC article.

Although mammoths had survived a previous interglacial warming period, the migration of humans into the region sealed their fate. The last mammoth died about 3,600 years ago.

The threat of man-made climate change in our time makes the mammoth’s story, as it is now understood, particularly poignant.

National Geographic predicts that, by 2050, two-thirds of the current polar bear population will disappear as a result of melting polar ice caps. There is evidence that their hunting grounds are shrinking.

Whether that prediction is accurate is a matter of heated debate in Alaska, where the bears’ presence could block the leasing of their habitat for oil exploration.

Headline links: ‘Humans Drove Final Nail into Mammoth Coffin’

Background: Mammoth park and complete skeleton found

Related Topic: The polar bear and climate change

Analysis: Could the mammoth be resurrected?

Reference: ‘The Mammoth Story’


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines