Dwindling pastures behind mammoth’s extinctionAugust 22nd, 2010 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS
London, Aug 22 (IANS) Dwindling grasslands may have been the sole cause of the decline of woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos and cave lions.
These findings by Durham University researchers challenge the theory that human beings were the primary cause of the extinction of these mammals through hunting, competition for land and increased pressure on habitats.
The research is part of the most comprehensive study to date of Northern Hemisphere climate and vegetation during and after the height of the last Ice Age, 21,000 years ago, reports journal Quaternary Science Reviews.
It shows that over a huge part of the earth’s surface, there was a massive decline in the productivity and extent of grasslands due to climatic warming and the spread of forests, a Durham University statement said.
These habitat changes made grazing much more difficult for large mammals and dramatically reduced the amount of food available for them.
The changes in grassland quality and availability coincided with increases in the distribution and abundance of man, Homo sapiens, ensuring a time of wide-scale upheaval for herbivorous mammals.
Prof Brian Huntley from the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, said: “Woolly mammoths retreated to northern Siberia 14,000 years ago.”
“We believe that the loss of food supplies from productive grasslands was the major contributing factor to the extinction of these mega-mammals,” Huntley said.
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Tags: biomedical sciences, durham university, extinction, food supplies, grassland, grasslands, habitat changes, habitats, herbivorous mammals, huntley, last ice age, massive decline, northern hemisphere, northern siberia, quaternary science, rhinos, sole cause, university researchers, upheaval, woolly mammoths