Study: Climate change not to blame for the disappearance of large mammals

Results show that the correlation between climate change … and the loss of megafauna is weak

A new study unequivocally points to humans as the cause of the mass extinction of large animals all over the world during the course of the last 100,000 years.

The European forest elephant is among the animals that are now extinct. (Wikimedia Commons)

Was it mankind or climate change that caused the extinction of a considerable number of large mammals about the time of the last Ice Age? Researchers at Aarhus University have carried out the first global analysis of the extinction of the large animals, and the conclusion is clear – humans are to blame.

“Our results strongly underline the fact that human expansion throughout the world has meant an enormous loss of large animals,” says Postdoctoral Fellow Søren Faurby, Aarhus University. 

Was it due to climate change?

For almost 50 years, scientists have been discussing what led to the mass extinction of large animals (also known as megafauna) during and immediately after the last Ice Age.

One of two leading theories states that the large animals became extinct as a result of climate change. There were significant climate changes, especially towards the end of the last Ice Age – just as there had been during previous Ice Ages – and this meant that many species no longer had the potential to find suitable habitats and they died out as a result. However, because the last Ice Age was just one in a long series of Ice Ages, it is puzzling that a corresponding extinction of large animals did not take place during the earlier ones.

Theory of overkill

The other theory concerning the extinction of the animals is ‘overkill’. Modern man spread from Africa to all parts of the world during the course of a little more than the last 100,000 years. In simple terms, the overkill 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.

First global mapping

In their study, the researchers produced the first global analysis and relatively fine-grained mapping of all the large mammals (with a body weight of at least 10 kg) that existed during the period 132,000–1,000 years ago – the period during which the extinction in question took place. They were thus able to study the geographical variation in the percentage of large species that became extinct on a much finer scale than previously achieved.

The researchers found that a total of 177 species of large mammals disappeared during this period – a massive loss. Africa ‘only’ lost 18 species and Europe 19, while Asia lost 38 species, Australia and the surrounding area 26, North America 43 and South America a total of 62 species of large mammals.

The extinction of the large animals took place in virtually all climate zones and affected cold-adapted species such as woolly mammoths, temperate species such as forest elephants and giant deer, and tropical species such as giant cape buffalo and some giant sloths. It was observed on virtually every continent, although a particularly large number of animals became extinct in North and South America, where species including sabre-toothed cats, mastodons, giant sloths and giant armadillos disappeared, and in Australia, which lost animals such as giant kangaroos, giant wombats and marsupial lions. There were also fairly large losses in Europe and Asia, including a number of elephants, rhinoceroses and giant deer.

Weak climate effect

The results show that the correlation between climate change – i.e. the variation in temperature and precipitation between glacials and interglacials – and the loss of megafauna is weak, and can only be seen in one sub-region, namely Eurasia (Europe and Asia). “The significant loss of megafauna all over the world can therefore not be explained by climate change, even though it has definitely played a role as a driving force in changing the distribution of some species of animals. Reindeer and polar foxes were found in Central Europe during the Ice Age, for example, but they withdrew northwards as the climate became warmer,” says Postdoctoral Fellow Christopher Sandom, Aarhus University.

Extinction linked to humans

On the other hand, the results show a very strong correlation between the extinction and the history of human expansion. “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 (Homo sapiens). In general, at least 30% of the large species of animals disappeared from all such areas,” says Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, Aarhus University.

The researchers’ geographical analysis thereby points very strongly at humans as the cause of the loss of most of the large animals.

The results also draw a straight line from the prehistoric extinction of large animals via the historical regional or global extermination due to hunting (American bison, European bison, quagga, Eurasian wild horse or tarpan, and many others) to the current critical situation for a considerable number of large animals as a result of poaching and hunting (e.g. the rhino poaching epidemic).

The results have just been published in the article Global late Quaternary megafauna extinctions linked to humans, not climate change in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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164 thoughts on “Study: Climate change not to blame for the disappearance of large mammals

  1. So, how many megafauna species went extint in Africa upon initial expansion of humankind?

  2. His conclusions are built on weak sand. Just because he can’t find another explanation and, automatically saying “Humans are responsible” is unsupported. Why then are elephants still around after tens of thousands of years of co-existence with humans? Stop and think about the task of killing an elephant sized creature with a spear. I saw a TV show a few years ago and the stone age tools tested against mock elephants barely punctured the skin, let alone inflicted a mortal wound. Experimental test showed the “Exterminator” hypothesis to be highly unlikely.

    It seems more likely that the researcher found an explanation that he was very politically satisfied with, and chose to stop looking.

  3. Why then are elephants still around after tens of thousands of years of co-existence with humans?

    Because elephants can be domesticated.

    Stop and think about the task of killing an elephant sized creature with a spear.

    It’s pretty easy if you put the spear in a pit and then get the elephant to fall on it.

  4. On my first wander through a pristine forest in the North Island of New Zealand, I was struck by the lack of noises, no scuttling in the under brush and bird calls when compared to my native Australia.

    Finally it dawned on me, the Maori’s had eaten everything (except each other).

    Thankfully for them, the sheep and breweries arrived in the nick of time, courtesy of the much maligned Pakeha ha ha ha ha.

  5. The point about the species surviving all but the last ice age, when mankind appears in force,
    is particularly telling. The whole problem (at least for the prey animals) is that the human populations were expanding much faster than the animal populations. It is aso true that a prey animal species can be exterminated by animals that prey on them other than man. That’s life in this dog-eat-dog world of ours. Think I’ll go eat some chicken.

  6. The reason why elephants survived, and many African species compared to other places, is that the elephant and other African species evolved alongside humans. They knew to avoid humans. Which is why African elephants are so aggressive towards humans. Big game in North America, however, had no such instinct.

  7. Geology Joe says: Stop and think about the task of killing an elephant sized creature with a spear.

    TallDave2 Says:

    It’s pretty easy if you put the spear in a pit and then get the elephant to fall on it.

    Geology Joe says: Or you could just play it sad music until it’s overcome with melancholy and it swallows it’s own trunk. Much more humane and about as likely. Have you ever hunted anything?

  8. This study:
    Late Pleistocene human population bottlenecks, volcanic winter, and differentiation of modern humans.
    by Professor Stanley H. Ambrose,
    Department of Anthropology, University Of Illinois, Urbana, USA
    Extract from “Journal of Human Evolution” [1998] 34, 623-651

    suggests that: “Human population size fell to about 10,000 adults between 50 and 100 thousand years ago.” This was supposedly due to a volcanic eruption that resulted in a six year long volcanic winter. By 10,000 years ago, the human population is estimated to have been about 5,000,000.
    So,
    1) If the volcanic winter was this hard on humans, why would it not be hard on other large mammals
    2) Is it physically possible for a human population between 10,000 and 5,000,000 to over-hunt or out-compete so many species that outnumbered them (American bison alone are estimated to have numbered 60,000,000 before 1492, while being hunted by humans who used such tactics as chasing herds over cliffs).

  9. In defense of my species, look at this way : humans did not : 1) know they were driving these prey animals to extinctions , nor 2) did humans WANT to drive them to extinction, which would mean no more elephant burgers.

  10. While I agree that climate change is unlikely to have caused these extinctions, I find it difficult to believe that early man could have hunted them to extinction. Predators almost never hunt their prey to extinction, without modern weaponry, I don’t see how early North American man could have had any greator impact on say the Columbia Mammoth than precolonial Africans would have on the African Elephant.
    I think the clue to what might have really happened lies in the geographical distribution of megafaunal species loss. The Americas seem to have taken the biggest hit, Africa the lowest hit. Perhaps there was an event such as a meteor strike which we don’t fully understand?

  11. Lack of evidence for one theory is not proof of another theory. Theirs is an argument from ignorance on a false dichotomy.

  12. It’s abundantly clear that humans hunted those animals to extinction, and has been abundantly clear all along to any sensible thinker–I’ve had no doubts about this since I was a boy, despite all the appalling museum displays I’ve seen which blamed climate. Of course it was pre-McDonalds people in pursuit of early burgers. Here in NZ we had the moas, promptly hunted to extinction by the first settlers (the Maoris) 1000 years ago — we even have the old middens here with the bones of 1000s of moas cooked en masse, yum yum. Anyone who thinks otherwise simply doesn’t understand “life, the universe, and everything”.

  13. The key point in the argument put forward (as explained in detail in books like Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”) is that these mass megafauna extinctions occurred in places — the Americas, Australia — where modern humans effectively burst upon the scene a few tens of thousands of years ago.

    They did not occur where humans had gradually evolved over hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years — notably, Africa — in the presence of these species. The idea is in this case, the species had the chance to adapt evolutionarily to the gradual improvement in human hunting skills. In other cases, they did not get that chance.

    Correct? Who knows? But it is the most plausible explanation I’ve heard.

  14. Steve R says:
    June 4, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    No need to posit extraterrestrial intervention. Prey species were wary of & accustomed to people in Africa, less so in Europe & Asia, but not at all on Australia & in the Americas.

    Columbian mammoth sites have been found with Clovis points inside the beasts in such a way as to suggest killing rather than scavenging. Archaic Indians stampeded big horned bison over cliffs.

    Humans could have wiped out the megafauna of North America as they did previously in Australia & subsequently on New Zealand & other isolated oceanic islands.

    The reason we didn’t wreak as much havoc in Africa is that the indigenous megafauna there grew up with human predation over millions of years, if you go back to H. habilis, the first stone tool maker. On Australia & in the Americas, prey animals were naive & easily slaughtered. Europe & Asia are intermediate cases.

    IMO climate change did play a role, in that the species going extinct at the Holocene transition were under stress already. They might have survived that glacial/interglacial transition, as some of them had previous ones, but for the added pressure on their numbers from human hunting.

  15. Hi Arthur;
    your comment “humans did not : 1) know they were driving these prey animals to extinction…”

    Sorry, but for sure the Maori’s knew it would happen eventually, since being the runts of the village they were kicked out of (in best guestimate historical order) Tonga, Tahiti and Hawaii. After NZ – next stop Antarctica

    Oh no, my bad of course they were not merely hungry, rather they were intrepid explorers – yeah right (sarc)

  16. talldave2 says:

    Stop and think about the task of killing an elephant sized creature with a spear.

    It’s pretty easy if you put the spear in a pit and then get the elephant to fall on it.

    Everything is easy for those who don’t have to do it themselves.
    I personally think that making a spear stong enough to survive elephant falling on it and not break and mount it in the ground so it doesn’t move and digging the pit without shovels and, most importantly, getting the elephant to fall on it is not that easy.

    I’d like to see some estimates as to how many spears need to be made and how many pits need to be dug and how long it would take, etc. given the estimate of human population and population of megafauna we supposedly killed off. Somehow it just doesn’t feel right. After all, only after invention of fire arms we started to make a dent in population of such things as buffalo, elephants, tigers, bears, wales and others.

  17. I think my 7 year old daughter had the best explanation for the fact that animals were never so large after the demise of the dinosaurs: ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I expact God thought “Nah, too big — let’s rub them out and start again.”‘ Which is as good a reason as any other.

  18. Wrong Udar,
    “After all, only after invention of fire arms”
    see the previous posts on NZ, the Maori’s were beginning to get hungry long before the (tasty) Pakeha arrived. All achieved with wooden spears and stone clubs

    “no intentional PC here” CNXTim

  19. ”The other theory concerning the extinction of the animals is ‘overkill’. Modern man spread from Africa to all parts of the world during the course of a little more than the last 100,000 years. ”

    No they were residents of Eurasia as long ago as 300,000 to 600,000 yrs ago! Ya know, folks, being an expert on the big animals is only half the required knowledge. I hope you aren’t ”finding” correlation as your causation here (100,000 yrs), not because of the usual caveat but because it doesn’t correlate even. I was admonished by Pamela Gray on the ‘sunspot’ thread earlier today for suggesting authors of the paper had far exceeded fair possibilities outside of the science. In this case I agree wholeheartedly with Pamela’s admonition.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/06/03/solving-sunspot-mysteries/

    ”Gary Pearse says:
    June 4, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Pamela Gray says:
    June 4, 2014 at 7:08 am

    ”Gary, it IS the station of scientists to be exceedingly curious about what they don’t know.”

    Your simplistic statement is correct, but that is not the topic of my blurb (re-read the whole). If you think it is the topic, then Pamela, what is the limit? Should a solar scientist be extrapolating as to why egg yokes, sugar, salt, mustard and vinegar can be whipped into mayonnaise?”

  20. I see that my right wing, Republican, neocon, nonveggie, caveman ancestors were a lot busier hunting than I thought.

  21. Geology Joe says:
    June 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm
    Geology Joe says: Stop and think about the task of killing an elephant sized creature with a spear.

    TallDave2 Says:

    It’s pretty easy if you put the spear in a pit and then get the elephant to fall on it.

    Geology Joe says: Or you could just play it sad music until it’s overcome with melancholy and it swallows it’s own trunk. Much more humane and about as likely. Have you ever hunted anything?

    Wow Mr. Geology Joe. There is a lack of knowledge exhibited in your post. There are archeological sites showing man with stone age tools successfully hunted elephants. Take some time to read a bit.

    This latest study is not the last word on the debate of what killed the large species, but it and many others does make it look like man had a big part in it. The stone age man wasn’t some ecologist who carefully considered his impact on the surrounding nature. That meme is a joke kinda like your question: “Have you ever hunted anything?”

  22. We were taught this in college 30 years ago. The AGW cabal has corrupted every branch of science that we need to go back and re-learn actual settled science.

  23. Nah, it is all the fault of the extra CO2 exhaled by all the extra humans.

    talldave2 – did you ever try to domesticate an African Elephant?

  24. Udar: I’d like to see some estimates as to how many spears need to be made and how many pits need to be dug and how long it would take, etc. given the estimate of human population and population of megafauna we supposedly killed off.

    How about a megafauna kill-off modeling program funded by the National Science Foundation? Or maybe a simulation program funded by the Department of Energy if some kind of causal relationship could be theorized between prehistoric rates of energy consumption and the number of fires being lit for cooking up all those woolly mammoths?

  25. For those who think it was hard for early peoples to hunt these large animals, compare it to how hard it is to start a fire using only stone & wood. You try that. But the early peoples indisputably did start those fires, so let’s have no more reservations about their capability. They started those fires and hunted those animals and had some great feasts in those days. The Amerindians had a cultural memory of those days, they called it “the happy hunting grounds”.

  26. My gut feeling is that the answer is too easy, and in the current scientific client, a very fund friendly, human are bad, theory. I have no problem thinking that humans on an Island, even really big ones, might exterminate animal populations. Less so on continents where there were likely sizable populations that never came into contact with the sparse native tribes. If they had gone extinct less than a thousand years ago, I might buy it, but ten-thousand. Can’t see it. Why were the bison so numerous if Man was so deadly to the mega-fauna?

    Makes me ask the question, what if the Bison out competed some of the other large grazing animals? Smaller less protective herds of other mega-fauna were easier prey to large predators.
    For instances the Giant Sloth did not travel in herds as far as I know.

    Large predators were not numerous, and would have a habit of dining on humans, making their extermination a must for reasons other than food.

    Not saying the theory is not true. Hardly an expert. Just with all the ‘human are bad’ memes floating around these days I take any study that blames us for something with a grain of salt.

  27. Wait a minute! Hold the phone! I have been told by many a vegetarian that man simply did not evolve to eat meat. So, apparently Homo sapiens caused all of these extinctions by out-grazing the mega-fauna.
    Sorry, had to throw that in.

  28. About 3 million years ago, Panama arose out the sea and connected previously separated North & South America. This allowed the Saber tooth tiger to enter South America where they immediately reeked havoc and drove pretty much all of South America’s Ungulates, marsupials and large predators like Terror Birds extinct.

    Now if small numbers of saber tooth tigers acting individually can drive a large number of animals extinct then it’s not much of a stretch to see groups of humans who compared to Sabertooths are much more efficient and diverse hunters doing the same.

    Especially considering one of early man’s hunting strategies was to cause stampedes and drive whole herds of animals right off the sides of cliffs.

  29. To eat an elephant, first, dig your hefalump pit, then,
    encourage your elephant to fall into the hefalump pit,
    (impaling said elephant on spear inside pit is considered optional)
    then, invent your choice of:
    jack, hoist, lift, winch, crane, block-and-tackle, hefalump chair, soap-on-a-roap
    and get your 5 tons of yumyum out of the pit again.
    parboil with a pinch of lemon-n-lime and feast away.

  30. When a broken limb, or ever even a bad cut, means you will likely die, you don’t take unnecessary risks. I simply can’t see ancient man targeting mega-fauna if there was any easier prey available. And if they did do it, they would not do it in a head-on encounter.

    They would be opportunistic, however. If they came across an injured mega-fauna which they could stick spears in safely. it would be well worth their time to take a few days killing it, seeing as most of that time would be keeping off other predators while they waited for it to die.

    Wonder if we are missing an important factor. Dogs, or at that time, mostly wolves. A human tribe associated with what was in effect a really large wolf pack would need a great deal of meat, and the canines would give them the ability to hunt prey that they would not otherwise attempt.

  31. Tamara: Wait a minute! Hold the phone! I have been told by many a vegetarian that man simply did not evolve to eat meat.

    Does this imply that the incisors most of us have in our mouths have to be a recent edition to our food chewing tool kit? Possibly driven by the emergence of the Mammoth Burger as a popular human dietary staple — the Big Mac and the Whopper of their era?

  32. Geology Joe says:
    June 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    ‘His conclusions are built on weak sand. Just because he can’t find another explanation and, automatically saying “Humans are responsible” is unsupported. Why then are elephants still around after tens of thousands of years of co-existence with humans? Stop and think about the task of killing an elephant sized creature with a spear. I saw a TV show a few years ago and the stone age tools tested against mock elephants barely punctured the skin, let alone inflicted a mortal wound’.

    This implies a clean kill under humane conditions.
    As a child I remember reading picture books with skin clad cavemen trapping hairy looking elephants in a ravine using fire as a goad and stoning them unconscious while baffling them with smoke and fire.
    This was an example of team work.
    More probably a wound, be it to the foot with a snare, or a puncture with a spear would cause sepsis and debilitation. As the animal ran a fever and was disabled it was easier to run down and exhaust as it split from the herd to ‘go away and die’.
    Only relying on an SBS report the modern theory of megafauna extinction in Australia involves the fire stick and inexorable selection of plant species that favoured the agile smaller fauna with larger litter sizes.
    The fire sensitive species that the mega fauna with their long fermenting guts ate were replaced by species that seeded on fire.
    The fire was set by humans.
    It is interesting that the smaller fauna survived.
    Brendan Marshall in his article entitled ‘Late Pleistocene human exploitation of the Platypus in Southern Tasmania’,describes the fossil specimens dating back 30000 years as being ‘morphologically identical to modern Orthorynchus anatinus skeletal remains’.
    also ‘Even though platypus was a relatively small prey item it was possibly an important source of meat,especially fat,during glacial conditions.’
    So it would seem the Tasmanian Aboriginal did not over hunt the platypus, but the fire stick caused the environmental change that wiped out the mega fauna.
    The fire was set by humans.

  33. milodonharlani says:

    The reason we didn’t wreak as much havoc in Africa is that the indigenous megafauna there grew up with human predation over millions of years, if you go back to H. habilis, the first stone tool maker. On Australia & in the Americas, prey animals were naive & easily slaughtered. Europe & Asia are intermediate cases.

    That is only part of it. Another factor is that the expansion from Africa was over many thousands of years. As humans got farther away from Africa, they increased not only their hunting skills, but their weaponry. At first they only had crude clubs, knives and spears as weapons.

    Then some genius of his time found if you use a short stick with a notch at one end you have a long range weapon that can throw a spear a over 150 km/h. He invented the atlatl. and invented the atlatl which dates from from about 400,000 years ago.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlatl#History

    Later humans developed the bow and arrow, in use for abut 30,000 years, with even more range and killing power.

  34. Has anybody got a count on the number of spear points found with megafauna skeletons? Do you have any idea what percentage of kills are found by archaeologists? And people are still arguing that humans couldn’t kill off individuals, let alone species! How naive can it get? –AGF

  35. I don’t buy it….there weren’t enough ‘humans’ around
    Could have been something as simple as a virus…..carried by humans

  36. This is an old argument. It holds little water. The animals during the last glaciation were far more specialized then the last time about, e.i, the animals at the end of the previous glaciation were different. The last two glacial-to-interglacial transitions are not particularly comparable either from a biological point of view.

  37. Full sized elephants were likely very safe from humans and their weapons. Baby elephants not so much. Get them in the first hours after birth and you have an easy meal for dozens.

  38. For those that don’t think humans can easily cull animals to extinction, consider that humans took the American Bison herds from 30-60 million down to less than 1000 in a mere two hundred years or less.

  39. I still have concerns, among other things such as competition for available food supplies, catastrophic events (major volcanic eruptions, meteorite impacts, etc.), I suggest the following:
    1) This is noted as a “first-of-a-kind” analysis, thus it has relatively abundant potential to be … well, … wrong (look at all the flip-flopping scientific studies purporting that chocolate, wine, beer, red meat, etc., are bad for humans’ diets);
    2) The study focuses on the period only since the last Ice Age;
    3) There appears to be no data for extinctions following any of the prior Ice Ages against which to compare (what might be expected “naturally” during an interglacial period;
    4) The authors make a broad implicit assumption that natural causes were not adequate, so therefore it must be humankind and the expansion of human populations;
    5) The potential for food chain impacts does not appear to be fully explored and coupled with the relatively small size of the large vs. small mammal distinction (10 kg or 22 lbs) strikes me as being a very broad range;
    6) What number and/or percentage of “large mammal” species remains from that period; the implication is very, very few if any;
    7) Likewise, it is not apparent if any number of “large mammal” species have come into existence since 132,000 years ago;
    8) I have seen “documentaries” on television that suggest some large animal species (not just mammals) may have had a predilection toward extinction as the Earth warmed after the last Ice Age (i.e., natural causes); and
    9) It’s not clear if evolving disease (bacterial, virus, fungal or other vectors) have received adequate consideration.

    This is complicated stuff, lots of variable and competing theories. Clearly, the westward push of European settlers would not have caused the natural demise of many animals, mammals or not… For example, take Big Bone Lick State Park, KY:

    Big Bone Lick is a unique state park by any standard. Here the prehistoric past is enshrined, containing the remains of some of America’s early animal inhabitants. Once covered with swamps, the land that makes up Big Bone Lick had a combination of minerals and water that animals found difficult to resist. For centuries great beasts of the Pleistocene era came to the swampy land in what is now known as northern Kentucky to feed. Animals that frequented Big Bone Lick included bison, both the ancient and modern variety, primitive horses, giant mammoths and mastodons, the enormous stag-moose, and the ground sloth.

    Through the millenniums untold numbers of these great beasts came to Big Bone Lick. Carnivorous animals that fed off the flesh of these herbivores in turn followed them. Early man found a seemingly endless supply of food to hunt in and around these mineral and salt deposits. The lands at Big Bone Lick may have seemed inviting, but it had a deadly surprise in store for those animals that wandered onto the soft, unstable ground that made up the area. As they fed, many of the larger beasts began to sink into what the early pioneers to Kentucky called “jelly ground.” The bog-like soil could not support the weight of these enormous creatures and they sank helplessly into the quagmire beneath them.

    Source: http://parks.ky.gov/parks/historicsites/big-bone-lick/history.aspx

    Clearly humans did not create the bog-like soils…

    In the end, it’s probably a bit of all causes, and we just haven’t the data to differential the impacts of each particular cause. We here at WUWT and other like-minded individuals — those interested in proper scientific investigation — will have to wait for concurring research.

  40. Other teamwork involved using fire to rout and drive whole herds off cliffs. The atlatl probably helped, Wiki noted a modern range of 260 meters, I had previously read they are accurate to 100 yards, which seems in line.

  41. To quote a former colleague (albeit in another, technical, context):

    Adapt, or die.

    Greens want macroevolution, well, here’s their chance…

    Oh, wait….these creatures didn’t adapt….

    A cynic would say that’s because they didn’t have the IPCC to warn them (probably off flagging trains down somewhere)….

    Why is it that “man” is always at fault, when it’s folks like “Mann” who are obfuscating the real issues?

  42. Why would spear-carrying clovis hunters target the short faced bear, twice as large as a grizzly, and the lions and tigers when much easier prey was available. It would be dangerous and foolhardy not to mention resource sapping to hunt these predators. This theory is utter nonsense.

  43. I cannot comment on the global megafauna die off but a large number of the large animals and a number of spices of horses did go completely extinct in North America just about the height of the last glacial period in NA (Wisconsin). Most archaeologists have continued to propose that Clovis man was the earliest human in NA (or SA for that matter). Evidence for Clovis man as early as the beginning of the present interglacial is extensive in NA. I think there is some limited evidence of pre-Clovis man in NA but it is so limited and scattered that population levels of these people cannot be considered a threat to the NA fauna. Archaeology like Climate Science has a large vocal majority while at the same time there are a few folks who do not have their minds made up yet. The few do think positively about and have some evidence of pre-Clovis man but they would probably agree that climate was more likely to be the cause (if you discounted a large cometary event about that time – which personally I don’t completely discount yet). You can’t have it both ways. If there were no or few humans here until around the beginning of the present interglacial then they could not be the reason for a animal die off in North America.

    Bernie

  44. Interesting thread. I note that some posters have difficulty believing that man was mostly, or wholly, responsible for the extinction of mammalian (and avian) megafauna. I have no problem believing thus. As has been pointed out by others, humans when they arrived in Australia began changing the vegetation cover to suit their hunting needs, by burning. The vegetation changes did not suit the megafauna, on top of which they were hunted directly (or indirectly, in the case of carnivorous megafauna, it was their prey which was hunted by humans). As for those who seem to doubt the ability of “primitive” humans to hunt large prey, the archaeological record proves otherwise. Wooly mammoth bone was used for many purposes bu Europeans- including as fuel for their fires. The mammoths didn’t conveniently drop dead in large numbers so humans could utilise them. Even the much-maligned Tim Flannery in “The Future Eaters” leaned towards humans as the major factor in megafaunal extinctions, and there is no more obvious a culprit than humans in New Zealand. I have no doubt that climate may have been a factor in the extinction of some species in some places, but the major cause was humans. Resorting to diseases, which strangely attacked only large animals, doesn’t cut it for me.

  45. I am not impressed with this paragraph:
    “One of two leading theories states that the large animals became extinct as a result of climate change. There were significant climate changes, especially towards the end of the last Ice Age – just as there had been during previous Ice Ages – and this meant that many species no longer had the potential to find suitable habitats and they died out as a result. However, because the last Ice Age was just one in a long series of Ice Ages, it is puzzling that a corresponding extinction of large animals did not take place during the earlier ones.”

    It is referring to periods of glaciation within this present Ice Age, as being “ice ages.” If such terminology is being used, and it is being used quite inaccurately, this alone indicates that the authors may not know what they are writing about.

  46. Early man and even our own Plains Indians became adept at driving herds of animals to their death over cliffs and then butchering the carcasses. I know its instinctive to make it much more romantic and adventurous to vision the hunt with spears but the mass kill was really more productive and less dangerous

  47. rudy says:
    June 4, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Why would spear-carrying clovis hunters target the short faced bear, twice as large as a grizzly, and the lions and tigers when much easier prey was available. It would be dangerous and foolhardy not to mention resource sapping to hunt these predators. This theory is utter nonsense.

    Who says that humans did hunt the short-faced bear, lions or tigers. Perhaps they did, but just as likely they hunted out the prey of those animals.

    That, along with climate change and other theories put forth in these comments was too much for some fauna and megafauna.

  48. Sandi says:
    June 4, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    For those that don’t think humans can easily cull animals to extinction, consider that humans took the American Bison herds from 30-60 million down to less than 1000 in a mere two hundred years or less.

    Yes, that was an organized slaughter with teams of men using fire-arms, with the intent of extirpating the buffalo to deprive the native peoples of a primary food source. The Passenger Pigeon was completely wiped out by hunters, some of them using cannon to fire birdshot at the vast flights of the doomed bird.

    The survival up to that point of the large buffalo herds you cite is a strong argument against the idea of “…humans as the cause of the mass extinction of large animals all over the world during the course of the last 100,000 years.”

    It may be that the same forces of nature that contributed to the demise of the megafauna also played a role in the movements and migrations of stone-age men. The famous,apparently flash-frozen mammoths date from this period, as do the seemingly wild climactic fluctuations of the YD.

    agfosterjr says:
    June 4, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Has anybody got a count on the number of spear points found with megafauna skeletons?

    Let me guess, you are that dude. Why not go ahead, be bold, and share with us this wondrous knowledge?

  49. A couple of points. Many of the megafauna have vast ranges. Think of elephants and, yes, polar bears. Many, though not necessarily all, could have outpaced climate change. As to hunting, John Keegan made an interesting observation in his History of Warfare. Studies of our neolithic ancestors showed that a lot of them had injuries, such as broken bones, that are most similar to those of modern rodeo cowboys. This is suggestive of contact with large muscular animals.

  50. Steve P says: (June 4, 2014 at 4:43 pm) “The survival up to that point of the large buffalo herds you cite is a strong argument against the idea of “…humans as the cause of the mass extinction of large animals all over the world during the course of the last 100,000 years.”

    Nope, the example you cite is an argument in favor, because the buffalos’ herding behavior is a survival mechanism against being hunted, and the bigger the herds, the stronger was the hunting. This same mechanism is used by schools of fish to defend against sharks etc, and even people have used this mechanism, e.g. in the world wars the Allies ran their ships in large caravans to defend against the German submarine packs. That the buffalo herds were so huge shows that they were keenly hunted, but they adapted and survived whereas most other large mammals did not.

  51. NZ Willy says:

    June 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    the buffalos’ herding behavior is a survival mechanism against being hunted

    No doubt. But where do you draw the line between man and all the rest of the many hunters in the natural world, including some pretty nasty cursorial beasts on the scene long before the reputed arrival of H. sapiens?

    This is special pleading: buffalo didn’t form protective herds until man came along.

  52. Killing large animals is still a thrill, for some people. And would have been a rite of passage for young men. I bet they didn’t just eat the tender bits. Trophy heads, teeth, claws … are status symbols. There were all sorts of reasons for men to murder the megas.

  53. The Glacial Maximum would have driven all fauna southwards into more predators and nicely concentrated them. Moreover, vegetation wasn’t robust and the competition for considerably less of it probably had an affect. I don’t have any problem with man having had a significant effect but I believe all factors associated with the glacial advance conspired. Imagine the Younger Dryas hitting suddenly when there had been relative plenty and wiping out vegetation forcing sudden distress (freezing, wiping out vegetation) of a large percentage of all fauna in the glaciated and nearby regions – this (like a frozen food store) probably gave enough food to more mobile and adaptable humans and other predators for them to get out of there. When they got further south, humans could eat something else – perhaps the wooly mammoth not so much. Was there a YD at the end of the other glaciations. No? Well there you go. That’s the difference.

  54. I have no doubt that early humans could physically kill large animals. What I doubt is that their [early NA humans] numbers were great enough to put a significant dent in the megafaunal populations. Sure, they could harvest bison by running them off cliffs, or risk life and limb by poking mammoths with pointy sticks, but when all is said and done, in the time it took them to butcher and consume the animals, probably several times that total mass of bison or mammoth could have been added to the population. I just don’t think there were enough humans around to make a difference.

    As an aside, look up Pleistocene Park and read about what they are doing in Eastern Siberia. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleistocene_Park One of their projects involves DNA extraction from a Wooly Mammoth corpse.

  55. James Strom says:
    June 4, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Regarding the injuries, you’re confusing modern humans with Neanderthals. Don’t know if Keegan made that distinction or not. Moderns didn’t need to get as up close & personal with their prey because of their advanced projectile technology.

    It doesn’t take many people to wipe out naive species, & the human population went through boom & bust in Clovis America. Megatons of meat, bone & hide were wasted, less of fat.

    It has happened wherever our species has encountered isolated megafauna, & even microfauna, as on the Hawaiian Islands.

    http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2010/11/hunting-was-likely-killer-of-giant-marsupials/

    • milodonharlani, yes, and the remains of Moo spp found in NZ show that Maori took only the best cuts of meat and left the rest to rot, at least when they first arrived. They also brought domestic animals (dog and rat, at least, they actually raised them for food) which had a serious effect on the microfauna. The improved diet led to a population increase, when the moas disappeared Maori were reduced to eating each other, and ferns, at least away from the rich coastline.

  56. Sandi says:
    June 4, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Correct. The big predators died out because humans killed off the herbivores upon which they depended.

  57. I am a skeptic, for these reasons, human populations in eurasia and the americas were never very large in prehistoric time and a continent is a pretty large place. It seems unlikely that there would not be some places which large animals could not have lived with no contact with humans. For this reason I discount the Maoris on New Zealand. That is a tiny place compared to a continent. (but I do not discount that setting fires changed the local flora. ). . Also to the person saying “Look at what happened to Buffalo populations” . Yes but that was with horses and firearms, not really an apt comparison. My own view is that stress caused by climate change and possibly disease caused extinctions to be well on the way by the time humans showed up to “finish the job”.

  58. It is indisputable that man was responsible for the extinction of some large creatures, especially large birds, in more recent times. Besides the animals mentioned in other postings above, the moas (up to 13 feet tall) were wiped out within a century after New Zealand was settled by the Maori, and the elephant bird (weighing up to 1,000 pounds and laying eggs the size of a football)survived into the 1600s on Madagascar. And the last thylacine, or Tasmanian marsupial wolf, died in the 1930s.

  59. I so want a mastodon steak right now. Properly aged and cooked over a fruit wood fire.

  60. Thought Experiment:
    Study the videos of the Chelyabinsk event of February 14, 2013.
    Count the ‘Carolina Bays’ and other apparently time equivalent impact features in North America.
    Review R.B.Firestone, et al – ‘Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling’. PNAS – October 9, 2007.
    Read the descriptions of the Tunguska event of June 30, 1908.
    Have another look at the Chelyabinsk videos. Estimate the applied energy of nearly simultaneous multiple Chelyabinsk ‘events’, including ‘near misses’ of the Tunguska type.
    Contemplate the ‘impact’ of such an occurrence on the Clovis people as well as the megafauna.
    Interesting?
    JET

  61. milodonharlani says:
    June 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    The big predators died out because humans killed off the herbivores upon which they depended.

    The reality is that game animals like bison and deer were abundant in N. America at the time of the arrival of the Europeans. The native people seemed to have killed as many as they could, and they did it year after year, until their system collapsed, and the tribes disintegrated.

    And Africa’s vast herds of wildebeest, antelopes, zebras, and giraffes are not herbivores?

  62. Yes humans may have caused the extinction of some species like wholly mammoths and saber-tooth cats. But we have created new breeds like dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, camels, donkeys, etc. Without man there would be less biodiversity.

  63. milodonharlani says:
    June 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Correct. The big predators died out because humans killed off the herbivores upon which they depended.

    I would amplify that a bit by pointing out that “big predators” competed with humans for the herbivores that both preyed upon.

    But the “big predators” also competed with humans for “safety” and shelter and water and campsites and dominance. Thus, while a human could tolerate living near bison or deer or moose or beaver, living near a cave bear (Europe) or the like was an immediate threat to the humans in a clan, with THEIR defenseless children in a vulnerable group. grizzlies, dire wolfs, saber-tooth tigers? Enemies. Not just “food” where you kill enough to eat what won’t spoil tomorrow.

    So, the humans killed the large predators whenever they found them, went looking for more just in case and killed them as quickly and as efficiently as they could. It wasn’t simple competition in all cases, it was a vicious (and – for the humans – a successful) extermination campaign to save their lives. None of this “living in peace and joy” stuff.

    Time? Well, Lewis and Clark crossed the entire continent twice in less than 4 years on foot and by boat with just about the same technology for transportation that the earliest humans had. Just walking and moving only in the summer months allows one group to cross the whole continent (one way) in two years. North-south would be 3-4 years to reach Panama – if somebody wanted.

  64. Dr. Strangelove says: “Without man there would be less biodiversity.”

    Oh please, what nonsense. There’s no reason to blame homo sapiens, as any species which attained our dominance would act the same, but the appearance of the dominant species has devastated the biodiversity. There used to be micro-biodiversities all over the world, where species developed and thrived in small places, all wiped out by mankind’s farming and other land & water management which bulldozes microclimates. I’m not being critical, just matter of fact Biodiversity is just a count of species. Ever heard of Stellar’s Sea Cows? Well here’s your clue — there’s a huge heap you’ll never hear of again.

  65. Hi Geology Joe,

    You don’t have to kill adult “elephant -sized” animals, you just need to kill their young.
    Much smaller and easier to deal with.

    And there is evidence of humans hunting adult mammoths.
    Perhaps not many but maybe enough to tip the balance if the climate was changing.

    https://www.sciencenews.org/article/ancient-siberians-may-have-rarely-hunted-mammoths

    The Moas [12ft high flightless birds] were wiped out by the Maoris within about 100 years of their arrival in New Zealand.

    And you can introduce competitors.
    Aboriginal Australians introduced dogs to the continent which out competed the Tasmanian “Tiger” on the mainland. The remaining “Tigers” in Tasmania were finally wiped out by European settlers in the 1930s.

  66. The Dodo, Elephant bird, and Kiwi were some hunted by humans to extinction As the Maories had no land mammals to hunt, (Other than other Maories) but revelations also include the Kiwi nesting habits added to their extinction. That’s only in relative modern times though. Megafauna in Australia, some just evolved, like the red kangaroo, like the bison in America became smaller than the giant Bison. There is evidence Mammoths were hunted and wooly rhinos, so humans would have had some influence, but climate change was the biggest threat. Most of the extinct megafauna in Australia were browsers, not grazers and like all large animals especially marsupials that size, don’t breed often or have long gestation periods, like elephants, and the Aborigines preferred smaller game. They probably died out from drought that forced them to eat the available trees and shrubs as they collected around suitable waterholes. But it has been dismissed humans were the real threat to the megafauna. At worse it was the herds were desimated by human settlements. Elephants the warm climate Mammoth, are only hunted for their tusks, although some pigmies are thought to trap them for food. This theory has been dismissed anyway, why are they resurrecting it.? Remember, large animals fight to protect their young. And the technology wasn’t that advanced to bring down a mammoth with one shot. But there is evidence early humans on the American and European continent did trap them or drive them over cliffs.

  67. Steve P says:
    June 4, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    The reality is that game animals like bison and deer were abundant in N. America at the time of the arrival of the Europeans. The native people seemed to have killed as many as they could, and they did it year after year, until their system collapsed, and the tribes disintegrated.

    And Africa’s vast herds of wildebeest, antelopes, zebras, and giraffes are not herbivores?
    ————————————

    As addressed previously, African megafauna co-evolved with stone weapon-equipped humans for going on three million years, virtually the entire history of the elephant family on that continent. Likewise antelope & other large mammalian herbivores.

    The megafauna of the Americas was much reduced after the arrival of humans. That some still existed, many of which were recent immigrants from Asia themselves, after humans had lived in the New World for 10,000 years or longer, doesn’t obviate the indisputable fact that the biggest Pleistocene animals & many of the smaller species all died out after the arrival of our species. To name but a few megaherbivore groups in North America wiped out by us, horses & their kin, camels, Camelops & llamas, mammoths, mastodons, gomphotheres, ground sloths, saiga antelopes, several tapir & peccary species, at least two bison species, stag-moose, shrub-ox & Harlan’s muskox & giant beavers, plus lots of big birds, fish & other vertebrates. By contrast, when Europeans arrived, the largest North American land animal was the American bison, much smaller than its Ice Age ancestors & relatives. The survivors of the Pleistocene/Holocene Blitzkrieg had learned how to live with their too successful human predators.

  68. RACookPE1978 says:
    June 4, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Correct. This behavior, killing the young & whenever possible adults of competitors & enemies, has been observed repeatedly among many carnivorous & even herbivorous species. Ditto intra-specific competitors & enemies.

  69. The biggest reason for the decline in Elephant populations was due entirely the environmental movement. WUWT had a post a while ago about Alan Savory who was the instigator of the killing of over 40,000 Elephants in Africa to “save the environment”. Well surprise, surprise we was wrong.

  70. Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
    While there is obviously room for doubt, this evidence is significant. Besides, we know we have extincted some species by hunting them. We still might extinct salmon and some of our other fish.
    Hunting preserves are the way to ensure the wild ones stay with us. Hunters will not only pay for their hunts, they will pay because they will want to be able to do it again.

  71. No Mammoths or hairy rhinos were in Africa. They were ice age megafauna. However, Tim Flannery wrote a piece that was recommended reading for one of my units in archaeology he wrote about the demise of African elephants (I think in Kenya?) And compared it with the demise of the megafauna.

    Elephants walk from one water hole to another, eating on the way of course, but in a drought they stay put, and eat themselves out, and die from starvation. Made sense as one megafauna species skeletons were found around a dried out water hole in Australia. He then changed his mind and said humans were responsible. Well if they lasted for 10,000 years in Oz, they must have lived with the Aborigines for over 30,000 years at least! I think it is well thought out that until the 17th century, there were no horses for the North American Indians to ride and chase buffaloo/bison. And in Europe they didn’t ride horses until much later than after the megafauna died off, they hunted them instead.

    • BB, the horse actually originated in the Americas, and died out. Later models were reintroduced by the Spanish. The near-demise of the buffalo wasn’t at the hands of the Indians, it was European settlers. In fact, I recall reading somewhere that the settlers didn’t wipe out most buffalo for “fun” or for food, many were shot and left to rot- to deprive Indians of a food source.

  72. The remains of a prehistoric human feast, or something else?

    Instead he found miles of muck filled with the remains of mammoth, mastodon, several kinds of bison, horses, wolves, bears and lions. Just north of Fairbanks, Hibbens and his associates watched as bulldozers pushed the half-melted muck into sluice boxes for the extraction of gold.

    Animal tusks and bones rolled up in front of the blades “like shavings before a giant plane”. The carcasses were found in all attitudes of death, most of them “pulled apart by some unexplainable prehistoric catastrophic disturbance” (Hibben, 1946).

    The evidence of the violence of nature combined with the stench of rotting carcasses was staggering. The ice fields containing these remains stretched for hundred of miles in every direction (Hibben, 1946). Trees and animals, layers of peat and mosses, twisted and mangled together like some giant mixer had jumbled them some 10,000 years ago, and then froze them into a solid mass.

    http://s8int.com/boneyard4.html

  73. What is the one physical advantage, apart from intelligence, that humans have over all animals? Endurance running. Humans are the undisputed long distance running champions of the animal kingdom, with the possible exception of the horse. So one way early man hunted large animals was to literally run them to exhaustion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting

  74. I forgot about the Moa in NZ. Thanks for reminding me. The Aborigines did not introduce the dingo exactly, it was from SE Asia most probably escaped or survived a ship wreck. It was domesticated dogs that probably killed off the Tasmanian Tiger, that had died out on the mainland many years before, and was a marsupial, probably competing with the dingo for prey. As few know that a bounty was put on Aborigines heads at one time by early Tasmanian colonists, and the whalers used to emasculate Aborigine men, and made their women sex slaves. Nice people we were once. Well we did a good job of killing quite a few Aborigines too, no wonder they tried to kill us back, but no chance against a bullet. The Tasmanian tiger was blamed for killing sheep.

    The dingo didn’t cross Bass Straight as it was cut off from the mainland then from rising seas. Actually the dingo was never really domesticated by some tribes, as they competed for the same game, wallabies. And when it was it was only about 1000 years ago, and the dingo was probably domesticated or followed the camps to scavenge as its smaller canines developed or evolved indicating that they were not necessarily hunting for their own food.. However, they are not barkers, but great hunters and to breed dingos now, they are registered as a pure breed ( more pure bred than our present domesticated dogs) with Dogs NSW. But you can show them, but few do, and one has to have a special license to keep them in escape proof facilities with 12 ft fences. It’s mainly a conservation effort.

  75. Bushbunny, it’s thought the dingo came to Australia via the Lapita people, who traded with Aborigines in Arnhem Land (and throughout Indonesian Archipeligo and SE Asia as well as Pacific). Since it arrived via the “hand of man” it can never be native.

  76. NZ Willy

    To make sense of your nonsense, how many species actually destroyed by man never to be seen again? Your tale is the favorite of tree-huggers. Man destroys the environment and all of man’s creations are evil. The poor sea cow was hunted to extinction but man produced over a billion cattle. They outnumber humans by weight. It must be bad because it’s man-made. We are giving man too much credit for extinction. We can’t even eradicate pests like cockroaches, termites, mosquitoes, rats with all our poisons. I suspect man will become extinct before cockroaches do.

  77. Gigantism is an adaptation to cold weather. Deer in Texas are 100 pounds. Deer in Saskatchewan are 300 pounds. Megafauna, if used to a cold climate, would be at risk to warming. Trotting out Man as the cause of extinction is fun and useful to get grant money.

  78. I believe that megafauna went extinct in Australia before the arrival of man..The synchroneity and rapidity of the Rancholabrean extinction also rules our human predation.

  79. The paper may be useful in providing a bit of a clue to the relationships between climate and extinctions. Or rather, the lack thereof.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised that humans were responsible for the demise of some slow breeding and probably relatively defenseless taxa. e.g. Giant sloths

    But the notion that humans killed off large predators like saber toothed cats, North American Lions, short faced bears, dire wolves, etc strikes me as being quite unlikely. I think if Ogg the hunter-gatherer planned to live until the Summer solstice, he’d most likely give big carnivores wide birth. Likewise large fast breeding herbivores like horses and camels. Note that it’s not all that easy for modern humans using firearms and helicopters to control wild horse populations in the West. Yet a handful of hunters wiped them out?

    Yes humans did wipe out the European Lion in historic times without firearms. But it took the Romans foraging for critters to stock the spectacles in the Coliseum to do it.

  80. Arguably these megafauna became extinct because they resisted human efforts to domesticate them. Other mammals (horses, camels, sheep, pigs, goats, cattle, dogs, cats) adapted to man’s presence, allowing themselves to be domesticated, and they survived. Others (rats, mice) adapted to man-made habitats but avoid man at all times.

  81. lokenbr says:
    June 5, 2014 at 12:19 am

    Humans are the undisputed long distance running champions of the animal kingdom, with the possible exception of the horse.

    I nominate the dog, the hyena, and the bear, any of which can easily pursue and catch a man, and all of which have great endurance. A dog can lope all day. Fortunately, the horse is not a predator.

    ~

    Early European accounts of the Inoca, or Illini tribes of the American Midwest, attesting not only to their skill as hunters, but also to the great abundance of game in the woodlands and prairies spanning their territory across the Mississippi, Illinois, and Ohio river valleys:

    More than 1,200 buffalos were killed during our hunt, without counting the bears, does, stags, bucks, young turkeys, and lynxes.

    We killed also some animals which the Illinois and Miami call Quinousaoueia, which signifies the big tails, as they have tails more than two feet long, a head like that of a cat, a body about three feet long, a very lank belly, and long legs, and fur, reddish and very short. They move faster than any other beast for two or three arpents. If they were as common as wolves, we should not see so many bucks in that country, for they [live] only on these.

    I saw an exploit of a young man of about twenty-two years which will show the agility of these savages, and which made me admire him and could not but give great pleasure to a thousand people themselves trained runners.

    On returning to the fort, we saw on a large prairie in which we were (for these people have lynx-eyes) a band of does numbering about sixty, and quite near the wood which we were about to enter. Several young men started off, part to the right, part to the left, and when they reached the wood, opposite the place where they had seen them, they made for the animals and reached the prairie, with part of our people after them, and with others at the flanks. They chased them for half an hour, letting them go now to one side, now to the other, but steering them continually toward us.

    The one of whom I wish to speak as the most agile, outran his comrades and caught up with the animals, laying his hand on the back of one of them while uttering cries of victory; afterwards he drew several arrows from his quiver, with which he killed and wounded several.

    Inoca (Ilimouec, Illinois, Illini, Peoria) Ethnohistory Project:
    Eye Witness Descriptions of the Contact Generation,
    1667 – 1700

    http://virtual.parkland.edu/lstelle1/len/center_for_social_research/inoca_ethnohistory_project/inoca_ethnohistory.htm

  82. the modern weapon man had – the unique feature of humans, the one thing we have that ‘they’ do not – is fire. Having seen fire employed in the hunting process in Australia (light fire, watch prevailing wind carry it off over the horizon, eat first dead thing found) I can easily see how humans could have had an impact on megafauna

  83. Steve P says:
    June 4, 2014 at 4:43 pm
    =======================
    No, I don’t have a count of Clovis points, but here’s something better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNP8ZjZ_cRU
    Paleolithic man built their huts out of mammoth bones. See how silly it is to argue humans couldn’t have killed off the big beasts? It’s perfectly obvious they did. –AGF

  84. Gamecock says:
    June 5, 2014 at 2:34 am
    “Gigantism is an adaptation to cold weather. Deer in Texas are 100 pounds. Deer in Saskatchewan are 300 pounds. Megafauna, if used to a cold climate, would be at risk to warming. Trotting out Man as the cause of extinction is fun and useful to get grant money.”

    Not just giantism and cold. There seems to be a smaller size that works best for many species. Coyotes can, and do, live about everywhere at approx. 35 lbs on the average. Wolves at 100 to 200 lbs, not so much. Island peoples are generally smaller except for those that eat ( or ate ) one and other. Resources available for food, ability to hide, agility, etc. all seem to come into play as to what size works best. This is not to mention that within species it seems that longevity is inversely related to size. Small dogs live much longer than large dogs. Go to a nursing home and look for old large people. Not many men of any kind in those places and even fewer old large men. More longevity=longer time to breed. When times get tough, for whatever reason, smaller seems to work better than larger, up to a point. The really small wild dogs of Africa do well because of their social system and their well known insanity in a fight. 20 to 30 of them have been known to take on a lion and while losing half their squad still successfuly kill and EAT the lion. On their own, though, I suspect they would not last long, too small.

  85. Paleolithic man built their huts out of mammoth bones.

    Yes, but the video was short on evidence 1) that the hut builders had killed the mammoths whose bones they were using, or 2) that the hunting (if true), or hut-building played a major role in the eventual disappearance of these shaggy elephants.

    I don’t doubt that men scavanged dead mammoths, or used their bones. What I doubt is that man was responsible for their extermination, especially when there is strong evidence it was nature what done it.

    The vast bone-yards in Alaska speak of some enormous natural catastrophe, or perhaps series of them, which swept the great beasts from the land, and piled up their smashed remains in a semi-frozen mixture of bone, tusk, tundra, tree, and mud in the far north of the continent.

    See:
    Steve P says:
    June 5, 2014 at 12:10 am

    All of this may have occurred or culminated at around the same time frame as the mysterious YD.

  86. In Africa the megafauna survived because they co-evolved with humans. That’s my theory, anyway.

  87. Geology Joe says:
    June 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm
    “…Stop and think about the task of killing an elephant sized creature with a spear”.

    The Arctic Inuit are expert whale hunters and have been prior to modern technology. They hunted whale from hand rowed boats using spears or rather harpoons. If they can do that then it is even easier to herd large land animals into bogs, ravines etc. and then spear them, with flint spears.

    “I saw a TV show a few years ago and the stone age tools tested against mock elephants barely punctured the skin, let alone inflicted a mortal wound. Experimental test showed the “Exterminator” hypothesis to be highly unlikely.”

    Interesting. I have also seen TV shows talking about stone tools and how lethal they can be. If the Inuit can immobilise whales with spears made from bone or stone that is enough evidence that any large animal can be brought down using cooperation, planning and stone tools.

  88. Geology Joe says:
    “Stop and think about the task of killing an elephant sized creature with a spear. I saw a TV show a few years ago and the stone age tools tested against mock elephants barely punctured the skin, let alone inflicted a mortal wound. Experimental test showed the “Exterminator” hypothesis to be highly unlikely.”

    San hunters in Southern Africa habitually killed elephants with spears.
    In Lehringen in Germany an 125,000 years old elephant skeleton was found – and underneath it a fire-hardened wooden spear. If they are unrelated that is quite a coincidence since wooden spears that old have only been found on three occasions. At one of the other two sites (Schöningen) the spears were associated with bison and horse remains.
    There are in fact plenty of “butchering sites” with elephants and other megafauna throughout the world.

  89. Steve P says:
    June 5, 2014 at 9:27 am
    Paleolithic man built their huts out of mammoth bones.
    “…The vast bone-yards in Alaska speak of some enormous natural catastrophe”

    Yes, perhaps and you can include all the Mammoth bones that North Sea Trawler men keep bringing up, but this study looked at extinctions on all continents and climate or natural catastrophe were not evident, such as Australia.
    Rising sea level covered a vast plane in the North Sea that would have been home to many megafauna. One can imagine such large animals caught up in boggy land that wasn’t boggy before and following herd routes into such places much the same way people follow sat navs into rivers. However, and again this doesn’t apply to Australia.

  90. Don K says:

    “Yes humans did wipe out the European Lion in historic times without firearms. But it took the Romans foraging for critters to stock the spectacles in the Coliseum to do it.”

    No. The lion was already exterminated in most of Europe during the Ice Age. In Italy it survived until the early Holocene (about 10,000 years ago). In the Balkan peninsula and southern Ukraine it was exterminated during the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (last known record I think is from the fifth century BC).
    By the Roman Period the nearest lions to Rome were in Anatolia and North Africa.

  91. rudy says:
    “I believe that megafauna went extinct in Australia before the arrival of man..The synchroneity and rapidity of the Rancholabrean extinction also rules our human predation.”

    The megafauna in Australia wnt extinct c. 40,000 years ago, when nothing much was happening climate-wise, but by an odd coincidence just as the first humans were spreading over the continent.

    Talking about “Rancholabrean extinction” is rather silly since the Rancholabrean NALMA is a couple of hundred thousand years long. The megafaunal extinction happened quite quickly about 12-14 000 years ago in North America and a couple of thousand years later in South America, also just as humans were spreading over the continent in question.
    Not in the West Indies, though, despite it being between North and South America. There the giant sloths survived until about 4,000 years ago. And then died out just as humans arrived there. Odd isn’t it?
    And the mammoth survived on Wrangel’s Island until about 4,000 years ago, when the inuits happened to find the island.
    And on New Zealand the giant Moas survived until about 500 years ago. The maori reached New Zealand about 1300 AD. And so on, and so on.

  92. Steve P says:
    June 5, 2014 at 9:27 am
    =============================
    That evidence for mammoth huts is a thousand times better than your exaggerated link, and there’s more where that came from. (Can you tell me what happened to this vast repository of bones?) And how in the hell does a catastrophe pile up bones? Did you ever spend 10 seconds to ask that? There apparently are natural glacial processes that can bring about accretion of meteors and bones, and there certainly are places like La Brea tar pits and Hot Springs South Dakota where mammoth bones have accumulated for one reason or another, but these can in no way be correlated with catastrophe, but rather with climate in the Pleistocene and with man in the Holocene. Mammoth fossils are rare, and the idea that Paleolithic man learned how to make huts from such rare accumulations of fossil bones is absurd. And multiply that by the improbability of modern rediscovery of their ancient improbable find. The idea that they killed lots of animals in single herds, over and over again is the rational explanation. The YD catastrophists are worse at quantifying their theories than the climate catastrophists. –AGF

  93. Dr. Strangelove says:
    June 5, 2014 at 12:59 am
    NZ Willy

    “To make sense of your nonsense, how many species actually destroyed by man never to be seen again? Your tale is the favorite of tree-huggers. Man destroys the environment and all of man’s creations are evil. The poor sea cow was hunted to extinction but man produced over a billion cattle. They outnumber humans by weight. It must be bad because it’s man-made. We are giving man too much credit for extinction. We can’t even eradicate pests like cockroaches, termites, mosquitoes, rats with all our poisons. I suspect man will become extinct before cockroaches do.”

    This article doesn’t say man is evil and the word ‘blame’ is a bit emotive and was not added by the authors of this study. The answer to those that ‘blame’ humans for existing is not to come up with the opposite view that we have no affect and can do as we chose. The Grand Banks were over fished and as a species we have devised ways of catching even more fish without considering there may be limits, in fact it is intelligent to understand what is possible and what is not possible and what is not a good idea. Blaming humans for existing is a bad idea but also over-fishing is a very bad idea and it is important to be able to discuss this and any other subject..

  94. tty says:
    June 5, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Good points. Also the UK used to be home to Bears, Wolves, Lynx, Elk and Beaver. Their disappearance was not climate related.

  95. It might be helpful to list the approximate times when megafaunal extinction occurred. Because it was NOT instantaneous and it was NOT synchronous. Instead it was a drawn-out process event though it was relatively abrupt in each area (and coincided with the first appearance of fully modern Homo sapiens in each area):

    Australia and New Guinea c. 40,000 years ago
    Southern Europe (mainland) c. 35-40,000 years ago
    Japan c. 30,000 years ago
    Northern and Eastern Europe c. 15,000 years ago
    North America c. 13-15,000 years ago
    Northern Siberia c. 11-13,000 years ago
    South America c. 11-13,000 years ago
    Cyprus c. 12,000 years ago
    Corsica-Sardinia c. 11,000 years ago
    West Indies 4-5,000 years ago
    Wrangel’s land 4,000 years ago
    Madagascar 1,000-2,000 years ago
    New Zealand 500-700 years ago

    No figures are available for India, southeast Asia and China. There was definitely a lot of megafaunal extinction there too, but it has not yet been reliably dated.

  96. rudy says:
    June 5, 2014 at 3:16 am

    Nope. Australian extinctions are associated with arrival of humans, 40K to 60K years ago. Climate change can be ruled out:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v445/n7126/abs/nature05471.html

    It’s not mentioned in the abstract but the paper cites optically-stimulated luminescence & uranium-thorium dating of megafauna kills supporting the hypothesis that humans caused the Australian Pleistocene extinctions. The derived dates show mainland Australian megafauna going extinct rapidly around the same time, ~46,000 years ago, coincident with arrival of humans in numbers.

    The Rancholabrean Age in North America lasted over 200,000 years, with the extinctions concentrated at its end, after humans show up. Coincidence? I think not.

  97. tty says:
    June 5, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Same applies to Hawaii & other isolated oceanic islands.

  98. agfosterjr says:
    June 5, 2014 at 10:33 am

    That evidence for mammoth huts is a thousand times better than your exaggerated link, and there’s more where that came from

    A thousand times better than Wiki, even?

    It is possible that some of the bones used for materials came from mammoths killed by humans, but the state of the bones, and the fact that bones used to build a single dwelling varied by several thousands of years in age, suggests that they were collected remains of long-dead animals.
    […]
    Few specimens show direct, unambiguous evidence of having been hunted by humans.
    –Wikipedia

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woolly_mammoth

    And how in the hell does a catastrophe pile up bones?

    I think a flood would do the trick, perhaps a continent-engulfing tsunami created by oceanic impact, or close passage of a large extraterrestrial body. Such might leave a whole range of confounding clues in the wake of its arrival or passage, but no direct evidence as to what it was. And there are other more down-to-earth(quake) mechanisms for tsunami,

    Of course, that’s entirely wild speculation of my part, but I don’t think there is any question about the existence of the boneyards, both in Alaska, and also in Russia.

    In 2013, a well preserved carcass was found on Maly Lyakhovsky Island, one of the islands in the New Siberian Islands archipelago, a female between 50 and 60 years old at the time of death. The carcass contained well preserved muscular tissue. When it was extracted from the ice, liquid blood spilled from the abdominal cavity. The finders interpreted this as indicating woolly mammoth blood possessed anti-freezing properties.[104]
    –ibid

    The New Siberian Islands (75N 142E) are famous boneyards.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Siberian_Islands

  99. The mammoth huts were built from bones that were decades old. Archaeologists studying the huts found no evidence that the mammoths had been hunted, the bones were from mammoths whose bodies had fallen into to rivers, rotted away, the bones had washed down river and caught at bends where they washed up. Large numbers of bones accumulated over time later to be used as a handy source of building material for humans.
    This particular theory has been around for a while. As have many others. Everyone likes there to be a nice simple answer for everything but this is rarely the case. For instance the extinction of the Dinosaurs. Heres a few theories , Asteroid impact, climate change, disiease, supervolcanoes, a nearby supernova, sea level rise, flowering plants. This is just a few. The most popular is the asteroid impact. There is large crater of the right date. However at the same period of time there were giant volcanic outpourings of basalt in what is now India. These are the Deccan traps. There is also evidence of sea levels rising dramatically and the climate changing. So what caused the extinction of the Dinosaurs ( and other animals and plants) was it one thing or a combination.
    The same may well apply here. Man may just have been one of many things happening at the time that drove the mega fauna over the edge. During the paleolithic various hominids including us had to retreat before the advancing ice. Climate at the end of the last ice age was fluctuating, there is evidence of volcanic eruptions at about this time too. Sea level was rising, the English channel was completely formed as this time by a giant flood after an ice dam burst. A lot was going on.
    Just a point about catastrophies. They did happen. Not in the Biblical sense though. There is evidence of asteroid/comet impacts. The earth has numerous craters one of the oldest is in Africa. Also nearby Supernova have exploded near Earth. Again there is geological evidence for this. There have been various giant basaltic volcanic eruptions that have spewed lava over vast areas. There has been extreme global warming and giant floods.
    The Earth is an interesting and very dangerous place.

  100. Steve P says:
    June 5, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Just as there are elephant bone yards today.

    Often bone & fossil accumulations are because of current action or the animals’ dying around water holes or crossing rivers. But they also occur because of human hunting, as in sites around the world where prey species have been driven over cliffs or off hills & mountains. The Solutrean Culture in Europe is named after the site in France where horse herds were killed en masse for 25,000 years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_of_Solutr%C3%A9

  101. Killing big game with spears now, to include Cape buffalo & elephants:

    If you concentrate on cows & calves, as was common with bison hunters in North America, it doesn’t take long to wipe out a species with millions of members.

    When rifle-armed hunters first appeared in Africa, the indigenous people thought that they were incredibly brave to hunt lions with firearms, since the matchlocks to which they were accustomed were far inferior to spears.

    People all around the world get together for big game drives, using various techniques to channel stampeding herds into kill zones.

  102. milodonharlani says:
    June 5, 2014 at 11:53 am

    If you concentrate on cows & calves, as was common with bison hunters in North America…

    I dunno about that. In the DeGannes Memoir at the Inoca Project/Parkland College link I gave above, we read:

    Some days later they again surrounded a large herd of buffalos. I went to the chase in the hope of finding some one of these isolated so as to surprise and kill him, and thus redeem in some sort the poor opinion they had formed of me because of the apprehension I had shown at the sight of the first buffalos.

    About an eighth of a league from the spot where we were camping I heard a loud breathing in the brushwood. I listened very intently, and, having assured myself that I was not mistaken, I advanced as softly as I could and saw a calf stretched on the ground, its mother having been killed. It was completely exhausted. I did not wait long to discharge my gun.

    Several women who were in the vicinity, engaged in peeling off bark, came up on hearing the report. One of them, leaving the others, went off to the village to announce that I had killed a calf. Two old men came up, who gave me to understand that the animal was not worth the shot, as the calves are never fat…

    ~ continuing milodonharlani says:
    June 5, 2014 at 11:53 am

    …it doesn’t take long to wipe out a species with millions of members

    But as the above accounts make clear, buffalo & other game were abundant in N. America. It may be that the natives would have wiped out the bison eventually, even without firearms, and even if the Europeans had never made landfall in N. America, but direct accounts from that period testify to the abundance of game, despite the very successful hunting efforts of the natives that are described.

    And as far as the idea that megafauna of N. America were especially vulnerable to the newly arriving humans goes, the tactics required by the native peoples to hunt these beasts shows that the prey were suitably wary of humans. DeGannes did mention a type of muskrat that was easy to approach, and club to death, but the deer and buffalo required rather more finesse.

  103. Steve P says:
    June 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    You miss the point about naivety. The bison hunted in historical times had lived with Indians for thousands of years. They were the survivors of the Megafaunal Blitzkrieg of before 10,000 years ago.

    Plains Indians did indeed concentrate on bison cows, as did the market hunters who almost wiped them out in a decade. The Illini didn’t like calves, but woodland bison in the East still managed to get wiped out, largely before European contact. Once you kill off the cows, nursing calves die anyway.

    Before horses, Plains Indians & Archaic Indians simply stampeded all bison, bulls, cows & calves over cliffs, which is how all but the surviving smaller species were driven to extinction.

    http://www.emporia.edu/cgps/tales/bison.html

    Wherever humans found naive big game species, they killed them off, whether mammoths or moas, Australia or America. When human numbers got large enough, even animals acclimated to people also perished.

    Whether through hunting, habitat destruction, disease or other means, we have been death to isolated, vulnerable or naive populations of meaty animals with slow reproduction rates. Even in Europe & Asia, anatomically modern humans managed to wipe out the megafauna which had survived prior interglacial periods.

    • surely it is time to cease all “sports” hunting.
      Mankind has moved on from the “Hunter Gatherer” phase. Celebrating “the gun” and “the itrepid hunter” as is rife in the USA with the exzcpetion of commonsense culls is not only barbaric, it is plain stupid

  104. Steve P says:
    June 5, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Two problems:
    1) Your Wiki link provides no source for these disparate dates of mammoth hut bones.
    2) If they are correct, that requires that the bones were never used for fuel over the time span indicated.

    Someone directed me to some early and reliable bone yard anecdote two or three years ago here at WUWT, and as per your source, an accumulation of over 200ky is indicated–no catastrophe. The blood antifreeze is typical Wikipedia nonsense. For something still unscholarly but less nonsensical see:

    http://www.afghanchamber.com/history/stoneages.htm

    …with the humorous line: “Remains suggest that some of them ate nothing but mammoth meat. They must have been delicious, since they ate every last one.”

    So we can agree that lots of mammoths lived for a long time and their tusks were usually preserved, their skeletons much of the time, and occasionally their hide and even softer tissue. Asian mammoths coexisted with humans for thousands of years, and American mammoths for hundreds of years. Yes, the meat was good.

    As for catastrophes, I’m pretty sure the tendency was for the evidence to be scattered rather than gathered–or so the laws of thermodynamics. –AGF

  105. cnxtim says:
    June 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Most “sport” hunters & fishers eat their kills. I was raised on shot & caught deer, elk, pheasant, trout & salmon.

    Hunting is an essential wildlife management tool, now that so many natural predators of game species have been greatly reduced or wiped out.

    Many sport hunting & fishing species have been introduced & aren’t natural.

  106. If humans are responsible fore their demise, where are the big piles of mammoth and mastodon bones with marks consistent with butchering?

    Did humans chow down on the Dire Wolf, Cave Lion, and Short-faced Bear too?

    If H. sapiens was responsible for exterminating so many creatures, we should expect to see an abundance of clear and unambiguous evidence attesting to that enormous slaughter,

    Instead, virtually zip.

    Show us the bones.

  107. milodonharlani says:
    June 5, 2014 at 11:18 am

    The derived dates show mainland Australian megafauna going extinct rapidly around the same time, ~46,000 years ago, coincident with arrival of humans in numbers.

    ============================

    Why did humans show up then? It can be easily understood that the same climate change that killed the megafauna made the environment suitable for human habitation. Correlation doesn’t prove causation.

  108. Steve P says:
    June 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    There is lots of evidence, much cited here already. I wonder if you have read the comments.

    Cave lions were in Europe, not the Americas. Dire wolf & short-faced bear died out for lack of their usual prey species, killed off by humans, but they & their young would also have been targeted for death by people, just as Americans extirpated wolves from the West.

    The bones of mammoths & other megafauna killed by humans over a millennium or more were mostly scavenged or not preserved, but at kill sites across the continent there are signs of human predation & butchering. Bear in mind that Woolly & Columbian mammoths were not numerous.

    Here again are some sites:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lehner_Mammoth-Kill_Site

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naco-Mammoth_Kill_Site

    http://nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/904

    “Clovis hunters understood that large mammals, such as the mammoth, had to have water: thus, they could be found at watering holes and ponds. Furthermore, they understood that the soft ground near the watering holes could slow the animals down and would sometimes entrap the large mammals. At a Clovis mammoth kill site in Wyoming, archaeologists feel that the evidence shows that the hunters ambushed the animals and then drove the panic-stricken animals into the muck. At Murray Springs, near present day Tombstone, Arizona, Clovis hunters ambushed bison around a small pond. Then the hunters set up a camp on a nearby high spot where the animals were butchered.

    “At the Colby site, near Worland, Wyoming, Clovis hunters 12,000 years ago killed several mammoths in a shallow arroyo. The hunt probably took place in the late fall or early winter. The hunters partly butchered the animals, then stacked the carcasses into piles to be frozen. The hunters then moved on, returning to open the cache when they needed meat. In other words, Clovis hunters understood the basic principles of freezing and used frozen meat caches.”

  109. Lots and lots of very loose logic above which folks are trying to pass off as some sort of science.

    If man eliminated mega fauna, it was a pretty amazing trick since mega fauna were well established around the world, while man was still trying to spread out.
    According to the ‘blame mankind’ science wonders mankind killed mega fauna throughout North and South America when man had immense problems surviving in very large areas during that so-called extinction period.

    Life was already extremely dangerous and it was not smart to make very dangerous hunts a regular event.

    Find a dead mega fauna? Well, food is where you find it and man was a scavenger that survived scavenging by cooking.

    Maori feasts? Great piles of bones? That is evidence of people looking to stuff themselves at a temporary camp, not predators living in a confined area.

    Yum? Barbecue? Even primitive man understood that winter followed summer and fall. Putting up food for the winter was an urgency generally followed by colonies of mankind and began as soon as spring arrived.
    Putting up food for multiple years is relatively irrational as primitive man had minimal protections from insects and vermin. Even very hungry hunter/gatherers had difficulty getting excited about two-three year old dried meat. Which is a good reason to work more on developing grains, fruits, tubers and vegetables. Especially the long storing kind.

    Most hunter/gatherer groups did not harvest more than they needed.

    Hunting the next size down critters is plenty dangerous enough for primitives. Wounding a pig, bison or bear for example was a very bad idea. Watch the Smithsonian channel and while ignoring their anthropomorphic slant and constant AGW bleating, observe the animals. Watch the bison kick a wolf ass over teacups, ditto for the giraffe; notice how an elk slams into a grizzly bear and shoves it back a significant distance.

    Thinking that hunting these animals is slam dunk easy is a sign that someone strictly buys their food wrapped in plastic.
    Want to engage a seriously dangerous wild animal even with modern firearms to check just how dangerous they are and how easy to hunt? Buy a guided hunt for cape buffalo, lion, leopard, tiger, brown bear, polar bear… Even today with modern firearms people get mauled, maimed and sometimes killed while trying to hunt these critters.

    Oh, but the mega fauna were people stupid. Say what? Just what is people stupid? Do you really believe that people fresh to an area could just dance their way up to a mastodon and stick a spear in it? That would be a definitive Darwin award effort; can you spell ‘people jam’? Or perhaps you meant that primitive man snuck up on a saber tooth tiger, American cave lion, short faced bear or Eurasian cave lion and poked them with a sharp stick?

    Maybe you meant that one of your little group drew the short straw that year and had to be the one to tempt one of these mega fauna to chase them to a pit with a sharp stick in the bottom? How big is that pit and just how is the pit constructed? Big cats have phenomenal jumping ability, not forgetting sprinting.

    Primitives who had access to easy meat, e.g. Plains Tribes, frequently hunted them for winter stores. Regular life was focused on smaller critters with rabbits and birds being very popular. Early nets were woven to capture both rodentia and birds when driven with entire tribes engaged in the hunt. Rabbit skins were cut into strips and then woven into blankets; very soft and quite warm. Large animal skins, e.g. bison, were used for shelters, e.g. teepee. Small critters were very preferential for regular food as anyone, even kids with bent sticks, could hunt them safely. Many primitive peoples were transitory moving to a new camp when local small critters were getting scarce.
    Even in Colonial America, squirrels were the most common meat where ‘barking a squirrel’ meant an accurate shot that killed squirrels by impact shock rather than bullet damage; it took accurate shot placement just into the wood next to where the squirrel was holding.

    It seems that every time I read one of the so called research cited as ‘proof’ that mankind decimated mega fauna, I am struck by how the researchers sought evidence for proof for their assumptions rather than overwhelming evidence driving the idea.

    Think different about it? Fine, prove it. Yeah, points have been found in critters, but we do not know why. Those points could be near misses from some other tribe trying to steal the found kill. Cut marks are common on bones; well yeah, man was happy to get meat and often even happier to get a source of large tendons. Tendons are the source of sinew used for bowstrings and wraps. Tendons and sinew were also used in gluing up more powerful weapons like laminated recurve bows, (e.g. used by Native Americans and Scythians) or making the notches fir atlatls.

    Remember Ötzi the iceman found in the Alps; he was found with an arrowhead in him. The arrowhead killed him, but not immediately. Getting shot with an arrow usually means death by blood loss, as in Ötzi’s case; mega fauna can do a lot of damage before succumbing.

  110. “…making the notches fir atlatls…”
    should be
    “…making the notches for atlatls…”

    Finger transcription clumsy here.

  111. milodonharlani says:
    June 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Cave lions were in Europe, not the Americas.

    The American lion (Panthera leo atrox or P. atrox) — also known as the North American lion, Naegele’s giant jaguar or American cave lion

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_lion

    Three kill sites do not amount to much against the backdrop of the Late Pleistocene extinction event.

  112. ATheoK says:
    June 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    “Most hunter/gatherer groups did not harvest more than they needed.”

    Sorry, but that is so wrong as to make me laugh out loud. Hunter-gatherers often waste more than they use.

    The overwhelming evidence of its falseness lies on every continent.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_jump

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_of_Solutr%C3%A9#Hunting_site

    Don’t know what logic you find faulty, but the association of human arrival with mass extinctions in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand & other islands is not a coincidence. It doesn’t have to be from hunting alone. At least a dozen bird species died out in the Hawaiian Islands from the effects of farming as well as hunting after the Polynesians arrived. That Pleistocene megafauna in Europe & Asia which had survived prior interglacials also went extinct during the Holocene is due to hunting by better equipped & more numerous anatomically modern humans, rather than sparse & less advanced Neanderthals. Our projectile weapons were far more effective & safer against big game than Neanderthal thrusting spears.

  113. “Cave lions were in Europe, not the Americas. Dire wolf & short-faced bear died out for lack of their usual prey species, killed off by humans, but they & their young would also have been targeted for death by people, just as Americans extirpated wolves from the West…”

    ?????
    Elk, bears, bison, deer (muley and whitetail in NA), turkeys, geese, seals, walrus, moose, salmon…

    There is a very long list of prey. Are you telling us that these ‘mega predators’ were very prey specialized refusing other meat sources? Don’t forget to add in that in North and South America, mankind was very sparse and is believed to have been extinguished for most of North America around the same time.

    And that this very sparse man dispersion managed to kill off all prey species for mega fauna? When researchers were positive that wolves only ate large prey they were astonished to learn that wolves eat and can thrive on rodents.

    “…just as American extirpated wolves from the west…”
    Well, they sure tried; but as far as I know, wolves were never extirpated from the American West and definitely never extirpated from most of the Canadian West.
    Not that mankind didn’t try; they poisoned them, shot them, hunted and trapped, the last two were controlled under Federal and State hunting laws, the first two were open warfare with license.

    Coyote’s under exactly the same mankind attack premise have thrived.

    American bison were almost extirpated; but they were another part of Sherman’s war against the Native Americans. Recognizing that Sioux and Cheyenne along with many other tribes thrived utilizing bison where nothing is thrown away; General Sherman applied his ‘scorched Earth’ policy to supporting extermination of bison. During this period, bison were even harvested just for their tongues leaving the carcass rotting where they lay. Cured bison tongue sold for much higher prices in New York than old bison meat or even bison robes making it the most efficient part of the bison to transport long distances. As part of Sherman’s war on the Indians, he allowed the profit motive to drive bison death.

  114. Steve P says:
    June 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    There are a more than three kill sites. I provided links to or mention of five. Given the odds against preservation, it’s surprising there’s even one.

    The American Lion is not technically a Cave Lion. Panthera spelaea, the European or Eurasian Cave Lion, is distinct from the American Lion Panthera atrox (sometimes wrongly called a Cave Lion). Both differ significantly from Panthera leo, the modern lion. There are however some taxonomic lumpers who consider them all subspecies of the same species.

    This genetic study however pretty much clinches the three taxa scenario, to which I’ve always subscribed. One distinct feature of American lions is that their brain cases suggest greater intelligence than other species. They might have been smart enough to hunt from downwind, which modern lions don’t:

    http://www.uni-mainz.de/FB/Biologie/Anthropologie/MolA/Download/Barnett%20et%20al.%202009.pdf

    Abstract
    Lions were the most widespread carnivores in the late Pleistocene, ranging from southern
    Africa to the southern USA, but little is known about the evolutionary relationships among
    these Pleistocene populations or the dynamics that led to their extinction. Using ancient DNA
    techniques, we obtained mitochondrial sequences from 52 individuals sampled across the
    present and former range of lions. Phylogenetic analysis revealed three distinct clusters: (i)
    modern lions, Panthera leo; (ii) extinct Pleistocene cave lions, which formed a homogeneous
    population extending from Europe across Beringia (Siberia, Alaska and western Canada); and
    (iii) extinct American lions, which formed a separate population south of the Pleistocene ice
    sheets. The American lion appears to have become genetically isolated around 340 000 years
    ago, despite the apparent lack of significant barriers to gene flow with Beringian populations
    through much of the late Pleistocene. We found potential evidence of a severe population
    bottleneck in the cave lion during the previous interstadial, sometime after 48 000 years,
    adding to evidence from bison, mammoths, horses and brown bears that megafaunal populations
    underwent major genetic alterations throughout the last interstadial, potentially
    presaging the processes involved in the subsequent end-Pleistocene mass extinctions.

  115. ATheoK says:
    June 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Coyotes have never been persecuted the way that wolves were. They have actually benefited from European settlement in North America.

    The first public act in Oregon before it was even a territory was a wolf bounty. Few wolves survived in the West. They’re now being reintroduced from Alaska & Canada. In the SW some would move in from Mexico.

    The pattern of extinctions strongly suggests human predation. We started on the biggest & worked our way down. Mammoths went long before the mastodons, for instance. Horses, ground sloths, camelids & the extinct bison species lasted longer. Yes, same thing happened in South America.

    Here’s a Chilean mastodon site with which I’m familiar:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Verde

  116. “…Don’t know what logic you find faulty, but the association of human arrival with mass extinctions in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand & other islands is not a coincidence. It doesn’t have to be from hunting alone. At least a dozen bird species died out in the Hawaiian Islands from the effects of farming as well as hunting after the Polynesians arrived. That Pleistocene megafauna in Europe & Asia which had survived prior interglacials also went extinct during the Holocene is due to hunting by better equipped & more numerous anatomically modern humans, rather than sparse & less advanced Neanderthals. Our projectile weapons were far more effective & safer against big game than Neanderthal thrusting spears…

    Virtually all of the logic claimed to support man killing off only selected animals commonly called mega fauna.

    It is not a coincidence because man was not living in large areas of North America when the critters went missing. Other places where it is a coincidence shows another example of coincidence is not causation!

    Mega critters surviving prior inter-glacials is not proof for anything! That’s a classic ‘we don’t know so it is man’s fault’ argument.

    “…Our projectile weapons were far more effective & safer against big game than Neanderthal thrusting spears…”

    ??? As I mentioned above; try and prove that with modern arrow technology and any of the dangerous critters still around. Yes, experienced hunters have successfully taken game… Let’s see you do it and return to tell us that primitive technology erased entire lines of critters. Modern hunters with rifles still suffer casualties at a rate higher than small groups of hunters/gatherers.

    Locations where there are large piles of bones… How large? Tens of thousands? Accumulated over millennia or just a few falls. Mankind is extremely good at opportunism.

    Now show us where primitive hunter/gatherers decimated an entire herd or flock…

  117. ATheoK says:
    June 5, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    You’ve been shown lots of examples of not just whole herds but whole species that were wiped out. Archaic Indians wiped out at least two bison species via mass slaughter.

    Over a dozen bird species, including the largest, were wiped out by the first Hawaiians. Same as in New Zealand.

  118. “milodonharlani says: June 5, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    ATheoK says: June 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Coyotes have never been persecuted the way that wolves were. They have actually benefited from European settlement in North America.

    The first public act in Oregon before it was even a territory was a wolf bounty. Few wolves survived in the West. They’re now being reintroduced from Alaska & Canada. In the SW some would move in from Mexico.

    The pattern of extinctions strongly suggests human predation. We started on the biggest & worked our way down. Mammoths went long before the mastodons, for instance. Horses, ground sloths, camelids & the extinct bison species lasted longer. Yes, same thing happened in South America.

    Here’s a Chilean mastodon site with which I’m familiar:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Verde

    Coyotes were and still are targeted just as intensely. Only the poisoning program was stopped and that was to protect harriers and eagles. Coyotes are still open hunting, year around, unlimited quota throughout America.

    You are assuming things. A wolf bounty is not wolf extirpation. Wolves survived, but in very wild areas and yes, because of extensive hunting. Montana and likely nearby Idaho, Wyoming and possibly Washington never needed imported wolves. Other wild area in the Rocky and Sierra mountains are likely to have wolves remaining.
    For decades, the cold weather coats with fur trimming around the hood requested and purchased by the American military used wolf fur for that trim. Why? Wolf fur does not foster hoarfrost growth from a person’s breath. Tens of thousands military coats required a lot of wolves and the bounty paid for wolf skins was very high which made it worthwhile for a hunter to track and decimate a wolf pack. But that mostly occurred during the twentieth century, not the seventeenth or eighteenth century. Modern rifles can kill a thin skinned wolf quickly.
    Now about the dire wolf, a wolf larger and heavier than the gray wolf… I don’t know, but generally bigger heavier animals required very up close shots from very heavy bows to achieve sufficient penetration. Wounded animals, which would be the majority would cause significant damage before succumbing.

    Man happily eats almost any meat. A piece of meat does not indicate the diet, only one inclusion for one part of the season.
    Camelids and the extinct bison species still went extinct, why? Eaten?

    Human scat analysis across the West identifies much rodentia in their diets but very little large mammal meats. But almost none of these locations has human evidence greater than several thousand years. Still, Mule deer, bison and mountain sheep are plentiful enough why aren’t they predominate in the scat?

    One, two sites does not indicate any information beyond the one or two sites and their very incidental pieces of info. Considering how much many researchers are convinced they are looking for mega fauna extinction evidence in the few man encampments found for that time period I am surprised the information quoted is so sparse. Evidence should be overwhelming, not incidental.

  119. ATheoK says:
    June 5, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I can see you’re not a rancher or hunter. There are severe restrictions on the means by which coyotes can be killed.

    You’re also wrong that wolves were not reintroduced into Montana, Wyoming, Idaho & Washington:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_reintroduction#Yellowstone_National_Park_and_Central_Idaho

    As for Washington, the wolves that are now taking livestock in NE Oregon were originally introduced into SE Washington. ODFW has transmitter-collared some of them, so that you can actually watch them on line watching you & your cattle, pets & kids.

    Please at least do some minimum research before commenting, since it’s clear you don’t know what you’re talking about based upon your own experience or lack thereof.

  120. tty says:
    June 5, 2014 at 11:06 am
    =======================
    This in itself is sufficient evidence for the overkill theory. Doubters should try to determine the statistical probability of such a combination of “coincidences.” Everywhere humans go the climate changes and wipes out the megafauna. Or every band of humans carries germs that just happen to be lethal to great big animals. Really, catastrophic global warming makes a whole lot more sense than these overkill alternatives. –AGF

  121. Sorry, Milodon;
    You’re locked in your beliefs on this topic.
    Meanwhile I am unconvinced by the arguments you’ve thrown my way; they are far from convincing.

    Rampant herd slaughters leave mounds of evidence. What kind of dissolution process destroys thousands to tens of thousands of bones at a site? Lack of preservation? All bones, every site, with very few exceptions?

    We have better dietary evidence from spoil piles around primitive fifty thousand year old campsites.

    Isolated island communities caused some extinctions. Fairly well proven, I’m surprised you didn’t mention Easter Island; still that is a long way from proving hunter/gatherer communities cause extinctions. Isolated populations are subject to extinction for very small reasons, not just eating every one they catch.

    Archaic Indians drove two bison species to extinction? I suppose you are blaming the Archaic Indians for causing the straight horned buffalo’s extinction? Not counting the mighty large lack of proof. Are you blaming them for the woods bison also?

    This is a very tiring discussion with no proof, lots of assumptions based on very few claims.

    When all other options are positively ruled out, then and only then does humans caused mega fauna extinction become a contender. Until proof is overwhelmingly demonstrative, that contention is in strong doubt. Especially given all of the holes in the logic, like how mega fauna died out where primitive man camp sites are not shown to exist. Or why only the biggest of the mega fauna were driven extinct, that’s a real puzzler.

    Meanwhile, I am done with this topic.

  122. ATheoK says:
    June 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I’m not locked into beliefs. I go with the evidence. To doubt the overkill hypothesis, you have to believe, apparently purely on faith in the wonderfulness & ecological mindedness of hunter gatherers, that it’s a mere coincidence that mass extinctions of large animals happens at the same time as humans arrive on islands & continents. You also have to overlook the fact that “primitive” people slaughter far more animals than they need, because it’s easier that way or, as in the Buffalo Jump instance I provided, their beliefs tell them not to let a single prey animal escape.

    Even today not just hunter-gatherers but agricultural & industrial people waste abundant resources like fish. But why should you credit my anecdotal reports?

  123. ATheoK says:
    June 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    PS: All other options are ruled out. It wasn’t the climate. What else do you suggest? Diseases that just happen to occur whenever humans show up? What?

  124. “milodonharlani says: June 5, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    ATheoK says: June 5, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I can see you’re not a rancher or hunter. There are severe restrictions on the means by which coyotes can be killed.

    You’re also wrong that wolves were not reintroduced into Montana, Wyoming, Idaho & Washington:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_reintroduction#Yellowstone_National_Park_and_Central_Idaho

    As for Washington, the wolves that are now taking livestock in NE Oregon were originally introduced into SE Washington. ODFW has transmitter-collared some of them, so that you can actually watch them on line watching you & your cattle, pets & kids.

    Please at least do some minimum research before commenting, since it’s clear you don’t know what you’re talking about based upon your own experience or lack thereof.

    Wolves were never extirpated in Montana, and it is unlikely they were extirpated in nearby states with connected wilderness. Whether or not, people decided to introduce wolves.
    .http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/
    About that research…

    I am a hunter. There are very few ‘severe’ restrictions on how coyotes can be killed.
    rifle, pistol, bow, compound bow, cross bow, snare trap, 3#-5# jaw traps…

    Trapping coyote for fur is restricted to winter seasons.
    Hunting coyote is usually unrestricted as to season or location, firearm choice is usually unrestricted.

  125. There is almost no evidence. None, nada, zilch, zero; what is available are very tenuous assumptions with minimal absolute proof.

    “milodonharlani says: June 5, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    “ATheoK says: June 5, 2014 at 6:38 pm”

    PS: All other options are ruled out. It wasn’t the climate. What else do you suggest? Diseases that just happen to occur whenever humans show up? What?”

    No options are ruled out. Evidence is severely lacking. Experts use that funny word, ‘might’, when they describe the possibility.

    On exactly what? I’d like enough solid proof first to even make a guess. So far every theory has it’s detractors.
    The meteor strike with cataclysmic fires has more evidence than the human one; but it is hobbled by a complete lack of evidence for anything south of the north temperate zones; so it is out too.
    I’ve read the disease theory and that has major holes.

    No solid theories, no suggestions as suggestions are stupid till evidence becomes sufficient to postulate a valid theory.

  126. ATheoK says:
    June 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm
    =================
    No evidence?
    1) Plenty of correlation between human arrival and extinction. Astronomically improbable coincidence.
    2) Spear points found in conjunction with megafauna kills.
    3) Plenty of mammoth and other megafauna bones showing signs of (human) butchering.
    4) Plenty of huts built of mammoth bones, and probably covered with mammoth skins.
    5) Northern Arctic island survival of mammoths out of human reach (OK, corollary of #1).
    So we know humans hunted and killed mammoths, just like modern Eskimos hunt and kill whales. Now then, all we need is for the kill rate to exceed the birth rate and they’re done for. All that requires is a hunter population that depends on the big beasts, and grows until the mammoth population can no longer support them. And all the circumstantial evidence back this hypothesis up to the hilt. The evidence is even better than that for Continental Drift. –AGF

    • The situation in New Zealand is clear cut. with a first-time population numbering in the 10’s of thousands – in a scant 1,000 years, they wiped out virtually every edible land creature and bird with spears and stone clubs.

  127. Piles of bones aren’t found in other mass extinction events. It’s clear that all non-avian dinosaurs died in a very short time, yet nowhere are there outcrops from the Cretaceous-Tertiary transition containing masses of bones right at the boundary. What’s remarkable to me is how many mammoth kill sites have actually been found, given the odds against their preservation.

  128. cnxtim says:
    June 5, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Maori could have used nets & fire, too, to kill moas & other game. Plus slings & bows & arrows.

  129. Modern humans also wiped out archaic humans–H. erectus, Neanderthals & Denisovans–not necessarily by killing & eating them, but by outcompeting them, which over time leads to extinction, much as with other predator species. Also in the case of human competitors, interbreeding with them.

  130. Steve P:

    I nominate the dog, the hyena, and the bear, any of which can easily pursue and catch a man, and all of which have great endurance. A dog can lope all day.

    I really enjoyed your story about the Inoca by the way.

    I have often wondered about dogs. I run with mine almost every day and I must admit he can handle almost anything I have thrown at him. But I’m certain I can outpace him in a marathon type distance in the heat of a hot summer day. Some of the key differences being my ability to sweat and carry water.

  131. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/end-big-beasts.html

    Edited:

    Overkill proponent Gary Haynes says, “I don’t care what anybody else says, 14 kill sites of mammoth and mastodon in a very short time period is extraordinary.” Forensic studies of a cache of Clovis tools found in 2008 offers evidence for hunting now-extinct camels & horses as well.

    “It’s one thing to find a campsite with some animal bones in it,” Haynes continued, “quite another to find the actual spot where an ancient hunter felled and butchered an animal—where, say, a spearpoint turns up still sticking in bone. “It’s very, very rare to find a kill site anywhere in the world,” he says. And absence of other megafauna in kill sites doesn’t mean they weren’t hunted. “There is no doubt Native Americans were eating deer and bear and elk,” Haynes says, citing several large mammals that pulled through. “But you cannot find a single kill site of them across 10,000 years.”

    Good point, so to speak.

  132. Island extinctions by man are one thing, continental or hemispheric extinctions are something else again.

    My point about the dogs, bears, and hyenas was to illustrate that there are other cursorial predators with great endurance. Man’s unique characteristics are high intelligence and language, and we are deadly killers. I just don’t think the total populations of N. American tribes, themselves quite numerous, had reached the point where game populations were threatened. DeGannes noted that females outnumbered males 4 to 1 in one group he described, and the Inoca were said to be at war with a half-dozen other nations, primarily south along the Mississippi, but including also, ominously, the Iroquois, who were backed by Europeans playing off the native tribes, one against the other.

    DeGannes described one situation where over the summer, various groups of 10-20 Inoca warriors were arriving at one encampment, until a total war party of 800 braves had assembled, and these set out for a successful counter-attack against the Iroquois, whom the Inoca characterized as being slow afoot, but who were very skilled in the use of the canoe for conducting raids against the Inoca, cutting their corn, and taking hostages.

    Bottom line: plenty of game despite skilled hunting by native tribes whose populations were being kept in check by constant warfare with neighbors, and who ultimately fell victims to cultural disruption, disease, and political intrigue by the Europeans.

  133. Udar says:
    June 4, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    talldave2 says:

    Stop and think about the task of killing an elephant sized creature with a spear.

    It’s pretty easy if you put the spear in a pit and then get the elephant to fall on it….

    What you really want to stop and think about is digging a hole big enough for an elephant. Now that would be a hole. Archaeological evidence seems to suggest that pits were mostly reserved for small animals and insects. Bigger ones, known from Scandinavia, are mostly later Neolithic and Bronze Age. The chief determinants of a pit are 1) tools, 2) soil depth, and 3) soil type. I hesitate to argue that Ice Age pit traps are unknown, but I’ve never heard of them out side fiction. Second, while really big earth works do appear in Turkey for instance very early (12 kya), they are not common elsewhere. Then of course, the soil has to be deep enough, even if you have tools that are up to the work. There just are not that many places around the planet where the hunter can say, “let’s dig a huge hole and trap a mammoth.”

    The chief evidence of human predation on mammoths comes from western Siberia and Eastern Europe where some Pleistocene villages with houses built of mammoth bone (seems straight out of Edgar Rice Burroughs) have been excavated. There are “suggestive” associations in the Americas, but they aren’t iron clad by any stretch. More importantly, “megafauna” – i.e. elephants, rhinos, hippos, etc., survived in Africa just fine until rifles and a hunger for ivory arrived historically. Megafauna vanish where suitable habitats were yanked out from under them by the rapid changes at the end of the Pleistocene and even then bison for instance survived in N. America again until horses and guns changed the rules. Horses vanished, but that may be due to disease since they like the same kinds of environment bison do. In fact, even in the Americas, the only evidence of wholesale wasteful hunting is post-Pleistocene and only includes bison. Occasionally hundreds of animals would be run over “jumps” – no pits mind you – and humans proceeded to butcher all they could.

  134. milodonharlani says:
    June 5, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Good point, so to speak.

    Not really. Haynes has not and, given what little evidence we really have, cannot offer a sound statistical argument. His argument is hand waving and being enamoured by a “neat” idea that became fashionable in archaeology following the publications of pessimistic views of human effects by Ehrlichman and the Club of Roman. By and large the reasoning Haynes uses is equivalent to that which supports the idea of “ley lines.”

  135. Duster says:
    June 6, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    …Ehrlichman and the Club of Roman.

    Wow, you really butchered those.

  136. You are right Duster, deer were hunted by early UK immigrants. The buffaloo jumped over a cliff, and they were scavenged, but there is an example of a baby or young mammoth, being cornered in a canyon, separated from the herd, and killed. They threw rocks on it from above. The Lascaux cave paintings too indicate that they had some megafauna left 37,000 years ago. But archaeologists don’t know why they were painted, wishful thinking or a hunting belief?

  137. Steve P,

    You may well be right about hunting, and have given me much food for thought.

    One way man may have amplified his affect was through use of fire. Large areas were burned regularly by indigenous peoples in order to promote certain types of useful plant growth and habit for certain wildlife. I would not be surprising if some animal species would have gone extinct in this environment while others thrived. That was the whole point.

  138. lokenbr I don’t buy this
    “promote certain types of useful plant growth and habit for certain wildlife”
    All the Australian aborigines were doing was “killing and cooking” anything in their immediate vicinity.

    Simply, another case of funded fantasy PC running rife.

  139. “There is no doubt Native Americans were eating deer and bear and elk,” Haynes says, citing several large mammals that pulled through. “But you cannot find a single kill site of them across 10,000 years.”

    Deer, bear and elk, as noted, were not exterminated, and they were plenty wary of humans, as were buffalo. The accounts I’ve quoted above make that clear. The naive prey species idea doesn’t fly as a rational explanation for the Late Pleistocene extermination event.

    The body parts of deer, bear, and elk festoon native regalia, and were used also for clothing, tools or weapons. Generally speaking, the lack of remains can be explained by the fact that the native peoples used everything from the creatures they killed. Anything left behind would have been dragged off and/or consumed by scavengers like the coyote.

  140. cnxtim,

    Well, I won’t try to sell you on it.

    Either way, fire is an effective way too wipe out a lot of wildlife.

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