Large animals in Ice Age that included sabre-toothed cats, huge kangaroos and a leopard-sized marsupial lion became extinct because of human hunters and not climate change, says a new study. Researchers looked at the pattern of extinction for 177 species between 132,000 years and 1,000 years ago and found that those that died out during this interval were most closely related to the global expansion of humans.
“We consistently find very large rates of extinction in areas where there had been no contact between wildlife and primitive human races, and which were suddenly confronted by fully developed modern humans,” Jens-Christian Svenning, professor at the Aarhus University in Denmark, was quoted as saying.
In general, at least 30 per cent of the large species of animals disappeared from all such areas, Svenning added. The last Ice Age occurred during the Pleistocene Epoch, defined as the period that began 1.8 million years ago and lasted until around 11,700 years ago. Modern man spread from Africa to all parts of the world during the course of a little more than the last 100,000 years.
This hypothesis states that modern man exterminated many of the large animal species on arrival in the new continents. This was either because their populations could not withstand human hunting, or for indirect reasons such as the loss of their prey, which were also hunted by humans.
The findings appeared in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.