Ship of Fools Leader: Humans didn't kill the Mammoths – climate did


Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Our old friend Chris Turney, whose ship of fools got stuck in the ice while he was attempting to study global warming in the Antarctic, and replicate Mawson’s expedition, has published a new study which claims that Mammoths were killed by climate change.

According to Turney’s abstract;

The mechanisms of Late Pleistocene megafauna extinctions remain fiercely contested, with human impact or climate change cited as principal drivers. Here, we compare ancient DNA and radiocarbon data from 31 detailed time series of regional megafaunal extinctions/replacements over the past 56,000 years with standard and new combined records of Northern Hemisphere climate in the Late Pleistocene. Unexpectedly, rapid climate changes associated with interstadial warming events are strongly associated with the regional replacement/extinction of major genetic clades or species of megafauna. The presence of many cryptic biotic transitions prior to the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary revealed by ancient DNA confirms the importance of climate change in megafaunal population extinctions and suggests that metapopulation structures necessary to survive such repeated and rapid climatic shifts were susceptible to human impacts.

Read more:

The full study is unfortunately paywalled, but I think we get the idea.

Mammoths survived from the Pliocene epoch, around five million years ago, to around 4500 years ago – so they survived until the end of the Holocene Optimum, the peak warm period of our current interglacial, which preceded our cooler modern climate.

However, the Mammoths also survived the Eemian Interglacial, a much warmer period than today, which occurred between 130,000 and 115,000 years ago. The Mammoths survived the mid Pliocene, 3 million years ago, when temperatures were 2-3c higher than today, and sea levels were 25m higher.

So it seems likely Mammoths would have survived the comparatively feeble warmth of our Holocene, if it weren’t for humans.

History books I used to study, suggest humans built cunning traps for the megafauna they hunted. Who hasn’t seen dramatic pictures of primitive humans holding spears, surrounding some rearing colossus.

But this isn’t the full story. Primitive humans made extensive use of fire. Fire had multiple benefits; Grasslands are highly productive, in terms of food animals, more so than forests, where many of the interesting animals live up the tops of the trees, out of reach. Deliberately burning the forests on a regular basis created more grasslands. And frankly, why bother chasing big animals, risking injury and death, if you can simply set fire to the entire region, then wander over afterwards and brush the charcoal off the pre-cooked meat? Kind of a primitive version of fast food.

Turney’s abstract grudgingly acknowledges the impact of humans on megafauna. But I suspect the human influence was probably far more important than the climate influence. Otherwise, mammoths would have survived the comparatively feeble warmth of the Holocene, just as they survived much warmer past interglacials, over their long existence.

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July 24, 2015 9:45 am

In Sapiens the author declares that extinctions coincide with human appearance everywhere, while climate change only intermittently does. Another of his strong arguments was that the extinctions only affected land animals. If CC was the culprit sea animals should’ve been affected too.

Reply to  Johan
July 24, 2015 10:34 pm

That simply indicates that Harari, the author of Sapiens, was cherry picking his “correlations” and not particularly carefully. There were extinctions at the end of every major glacial epoch and much larger extinctions at the end of the Permian and Cretaceous to name a few. None of them “correlate” with the appearance of H. sapiens. The ONLY extinction event that does is the Pleistocene event. Even then there were surviving populations of mammoth for instance on islands off Siberia and humans were not absent. While the earliest humans entering North America very likely did so by water craft, the changes taking place on land allowed animals to move not only from Asia to America but vice versa. That means that “naive” populations were exposed to many things besides new human neighbours, diseases for instance. At the same time habitats were changing drastically, even catastrophically. Vegetation zones marched northward about 1,200 kilometers in about five thousand years and that span includes the Younger Dryas when they about-faced and marched south for a thousand years. That level of change would have caused reduced herd sizes all by itself (and evidence from early Pleistocene extinctions indicates that it did). The argument that humans caused extinctions has about the same weight of data and logic behind it that anthropogenic global warming does; essentially, none at all.

Reply to  Duster
July 24, 2015 11:32 pm

Funny, I always thought that Climate Change killed the mammoths.
As a result I was curious that this paper was being criticised.
But the climate change I had in mind was a catastrophic cooling which explains how mammoths are being discovered in places like Siberia, frozen into the tundra,ice and glaciers etc. These I read are intact with the flesh still edible and even with the animals last meal in the gut.
I’m not sure how Climate Warming caused these animal to apparently freeze so rapidly!

Reply to  Duster
July 25, 2015 8:01 am

Fell through the ice on a frozen lake?

Reply to  Duster
July 25, 2015 9:17 am

Good points Duster, the attempt to assign a single cause or event to the extinction is simplistic. It’s also folly to discard climate as a factor.
Example: the mammoths which survived on the island off the coast of Siberia were smaller. Their size allowed them to tolerate increasing temperatures.

Bob Boder
Reply to  Duster
July 27, 2015 4:36 am

What climate change? Only modern man and asteroids can cause catastrophic climate change!

johann wundersamer
Reply to  Duster
July 27, 2015 8:17 pm

‘The argument that humans caused extinctions has about the same weight of data and logic behind it that anthropogenic global warming does; essentially none at all.’
Duster, species live through hard times. Mankinds DNS shows ‘bottlenecks’ where population was drastly reduced.
but, unlike as in computer games, there’s just ONE extinction of the mammoths – when confronted to mankind.
No reset since then. No restart. A completely new game – without mammoths yet.

July 24, 2015 9:48 am

I wonder if he thinks climate change almost wiped out the bison…

Silver ralph
Reply to  J. Richard Wakefield
July 24, 2015 10:40 am

Nice example.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Silver ralph
July 24, 2015 11:28 am

And the Passenger Pigeon, or the Dodos (Oops they definitely are not extinct).

Bryan A
Reply to  Silver ralph
July 24, 2015 12:35 pm

AYUP, DODO’s are definitely still around, just disguised as IPCC officials and Hockey Stick manufacturers

Reply to  Silver ralph
July 24, 2015 3:02 pm

@ Bryan A,
I am a representative of Acme Sports Equipment. I politely request that you stop insulting us by associating us with so called climate scientists.
Thank you.

Reply to  Silver ralph
July 24, 2015 11:35 pm

And the Moa in New Zealand?

Reply to  J. Richard Wakefield
July 24, 2015 12:16 pm

Or the dront [aka dodo] …

Bryan A
Reply to  J. Richard Wakefield
July 24, 2015 12:33 pm

I wonder if he thinks climate change almost wiped out the bison…
It most certainly did…
As the climate of the late 1700’s – early 1800’s warmed, it allowed Man to hunt earlier in the season (lets face it, it is difficult to hunt when your nads are frozen). The earlier begin to the Hunting Season allowed for more animals to be harvested bringing those much needed Fur Hides during the still cold seasons. the added warmth and additional Furs created the perfect conditions for further procreation which increased population and thus demand for food supplies. Earlier hunting season from warmer temperatures also lead to earlier growing seasons which also aided in increasing food supplies.
If temperatures hadn’t warmed, Nads would be too cold to hunt or reproduce. So we owe all our modern society and lack of Bison herds to a changing climate

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Bryan A
July 24, 2015 12:38 pm

No amount of hunting by bow and lance could have nearly made the bison go extinct. That required firearms, which the Plains Indians also adopted. The market hunters making stands from long range however were probably more deadly than Indians armed with pistol-caliber weapons, ie revolvers and carbines.

Billy Liar
Reply to  Bryan A
July 24, 2015 1:57 pm

How about driving whole herds over a cliff. No bow and arrow required.
In one of his journals, Meriwether Lewis describes how a buffalo jump was practiced during the Lewis and Clark Expedition:
… one of the most active and fleet young men is selected and disguised in a robe of buffalo skin… he places himself at a distance between a herd of buffalo and a precipice proper for the purpose; the other Indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and at a signal agreed on all show themselves at the same time moving forward towards the buffalo; the disguised Indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently near the buffalo to be noticed by them when they take to flight and running before them they follow him in full speed to the precipice; the Indian (decoy) in the mean time has taken care to secure himself in some cranny in the cliff… the part of the decoy I am informed is extremely dangerous.

Eugene WR Gallun
Reply to  Bryan A
July 24, 2015 5:16 pm

Bryan A
The west is known for its wet and dry cycles. When it is wet grass grows and the buffalo population would increase. When the drought came the buffalo population would crash. Or so I have read. Wet and drought are a natural part of the western climate.
Surprisingly, I have read that half or more of the buffalo killed for the fur trade were killed by Indians. The good things of life attract all. Buffalo hides were a means to get them.
Eugene WR Gallun

Reply to  Bryan A
July 24, 2015 10:22 pm

– “No amount of hunting by bow and lance could have nearly made the bison go extinct.”
Look up Bison latifrons and Bison antiquus
The Bison of today is only one of 4 species that was here when man arrived on the seen.

Eugene WR Gallun
Reply to  Bryan A
July 25, 2015 12:02 am

i have my doubts about the pile of buffalo skulls in the article you offer. There are an awful lot of skulls but those that can be distinguished all seem to face outward, the head right side up. I think it is a mound of dirt or side of a cliff that has been plastered with buffalo skulls. Call it somebody’s artwork. You would be surprised at what some people have done — I believe one guy built a large house out of empty glass bottles. Chewing gum art is in a realm by itself.
There seems to have been a huge trade in bone collection — dead buffalo bones. I wonder what the deterioration rate was for buffalo bones. How many generations of dead buffalo actually littered the prairie? I bet the bones lasted a long time.
Now I am not a denier of the buffalo holocaust but I do question if the beginning figure of buffalo numbers is exaggerated.The final figure of a few hundred buffalo left after the shooting stopped I accept.
And to say — The evil white man killed the buffalo! — might be too easy an answer — though it is the politically correct thing to say.
Eugene WR Gallun

Robert B
Reply to  Bryan A
July 25, 2015 2:03 am

Aurochs died out in Poland in the 17th century after hunting them was restricted to royals. They died out in North Arica 1000 years before (no guns yet). Animals that originated in India but survived in the wild in Siberia and the interglacial North Africa couldn’t survive the Mannocene (the period of very constant climate indicated by the shaft of the hockey stick) while cattle flourished. Looks like it was due to humans.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Bryan A
July 25, 2015 9:18 am

July 24, 2015 at 10:22 pm
I would urge you to look up those two species.
B. latifrons went extinct early in the Last Glacial Maximum, before evidence of humans in its range.
B. antiquus evolved into the modern bison.
Thus neither was hunted to extinction by humans.
Billy Liar,
Bison survived more than 10,000 years of being driven over buffalo jumps. Only the advent of firearms threatened their demise.

Robert B
Reply to  Bryan A
July 25, 2015 5:55 pm

Sturgis, the B. Latifrons was a very big buffalo living in small family groups. As someone else pointed out, this is not a good strategy when an efficient predator that goes after your young comes along. Explains the change from antiquus to the modern bison that is smaller and in bigger herds.
Its usually claimed the dwarfism on islands is because of lesser resources but I suspect that a smaller difference between young and adults is what the advantage is.

Robert B
Reply to  Bryan A
July 25, 2015 6:28 pm

Oops. Big Bison.

Tom O
Reply to  J. Richard Wakefield
July 24, 2015 1:55 pm

Another way to look at what he is saying, however, is that climate changed, causing the extinctions, but humans didn’t cause the climate change – sort of like what is going on now, you know. climate change not being caused by humans?

Reply to  Tom O
July 25, 2015 6:07 pm

Thank you Tom.
I wonder if Chris will now blame the early climate change on Big Oil.
Better yet, Big Oil created climate change to kill off the dinosaurs, thus enabling them to profit on those extinctions by harvesting their decomposed corpses.

Reply to  J. Richard Wakefield
July 24, 2015 2:22 pm

And the Atlanta Braves….

Reply to  J. Richard Wakefield
July 25, 2015 12:26 am

Or the passenger pigeon and the dodo.
Must have got brain freeze when he was stuck on that ship.

Reply to  J. Richard Wakefield
July 28, 2015 9:13 pm

Like a lot of former mega fauna, the present North American bison are much smaller than their mega ancestors. Same as the kangaroo. And no doubt adjusted to humans more than their ancestors. Recall North American Indians particular the plains Indians didn’t have horses until the Spaniards arrived and killed bison on foot. So – the only way they could trap large animals was drive them over a cliff or trap them in a gully. They only had spears and arrows or rocks of course.

Mike Maguire
July 24, 2015 9:54 am

“Grasslands are highly productive, in terms of food animals, more so than forests, where many of the interesting animals live up the tops of the trees, out of reach. Deliberately burning the forests on a regular basis created more grasslands. And frankly, why bother chasing big animals, risking injury and death, if you can simply set fire to the entire region, then wander over afterwards and brush the charcoal off the pre-cooked meat?”
Pretty crazy statement. If you set fire to the entire region and cooked all the animals, their habitat/forest would be permanently destroyed and along with it, this particular source of food. How long would it take for that burned up region to turn into grassland, serving as a habitat for animals that were easier to catch?
Maybe you are just joking. If not then please rethink the statement.

Don E
Reply to  Mike Maguire
July 24, 2015 10:38 am

The great plains were created by humans over thousands of years and maintained them with fire. If left alone most grasslands return to brush and forests. Today environmentalists in the Midwest do prescribed burns to maintain the grasslands. As pointed out the grass was for their favorite game.

Silver ralph
Reply to  Don E
July 24, 2015 10:44 am

And maintained by elephants. The elephant knows where its food comes from, and regularly destroys trees and forests to promote grasslands.
Besides, grasslands recover from bushfires in a matter of weeks, and grow quite vigourously afterwards. And many a wildflower and tree cannot reproduce without a wildfire.

Karl Compton
Reply to  Don E
July 24, 2015 12:45 pm

The sadly overforested Yosimite valley used to be grasslands maintained via burning by the noble Amerinds, who were so much better stewards of Mother Earth than we are. Now you can’t see the magnificent geography for all the danged trees.

Reply to  Don E
July 24, 2015 12:49 pm

“The great plains were created by humans”
Do you know of any studies supporting that hypothesis? The Eemian’s eastern North American forests reached further west but it was also suggested to be warmer and moister as well.
When humans arrived in North America the Great Plains were mostly semi arid scrubland. If they had anything to do with the Great Plains extent then it would have been from the prevention of the spread of conifer trees to the west during the Early Holocene, much like we are doing today by keeping Eastern Red Cedars from overtaking prairie today. But even this seems unlikely as Central North America has been much drier during most of the Holocene than it currently is. Sand dunes were actively migrating across what is now the short grass prairies up until about 1550.

Ben Of Houston
Reply to  Mike Maguire
July 24, 2015 10:46 am

No, man-made fires are a well documented method of land management used extensively by American Indians and Australian Aborigines. Environmentalist propaganda aside, it doesn’t take long for ecosystems to recover from a blaze, especially if it isn’t allowed to become overgrown like much of America’s forests became in the late 20th century.
Suggested reading:
The “pre-cooked meat” quip is a bit nonsensical though, as forest fires are not normally deadly to animals who can typically escape the blaze by the wonderful art of walking.

Jon Lonergan
Reply to  Ben Of Houston
July 24, 2015 3:29 pm

Not so, once the fires are going strong they leap from treetop to treetop so outpacing the critters on the ground. Another way of burning is to set multiple fires in a circle. The fires will burn towards the centre leaving no escape.

Reply to  Ben Of Houston
July 24, 2015 5:46 pm

A circular burn might work on a day without wind but the fires advance would be so slow, that the animals could escape. Not all fires burn evenly, nor is fuel for the fire consistent in amount and flammability.
Burns work best when a breeze is blowing and it is started at the leeward wind as a back burn then around to the windward side. That way animals have plenty of time to move and the fire burns itself out.
The fires that cause damage are the ones in strong wind and the embers are blown far in front of the fire. Also some trees like eucalypts contain oils that make them combust when temperature rises, Those tree top fires are impossible to contain because they are igniting in front of the fire face.
Those are the fires the greens make because they prevent fire trails being kept clear and preventative burns. Then they hold up some animals they have caused to be burnt and say they need more money. Speaks for itself, the hypocrisy.

Reply to  Ben Of Houston
July 24, 2015 8:39 pm

I have seen a fox burned in mid -stride, dead in the aftermath of fire. It depends on wind speed, changes of direction etc.

Reply to  Mike Maguire
July 24, 2015 11:04 am

As Ben says, the Indians burned off the woods and prairies of North American for centuries. They seemed to eat okay.
To answer your question “How long would it take for that burned up region to turn into grassland;” they don’t necessarily. See the Cross Timbers.

Reply to  Mike Maguire
July 24, 2015 11:35 am

Habitat/forest rarely rarely ever gets “permanently destroyed” ever. That is a fallacy. Plants will start growing immediately after the event. Animals will start moving back into the area immediately. A year later, the only indication will be some burnt remains of trees. You need to rethink your basic understanding of how nature actually works.

Farmer Gez
Reply to  Terry
July 24, 2015 3:57 pm

Not entirely true. Frequent burning eventually changes the flora to favour fire tolerant species. Studies of sediment in Lake George near Canberra shows this clearly. Once you fundamentally change the landscape the species ‘dominoes’ begin to fall.

Paul Linsay
Reply to  Mike Maguire
July 24, 2015 4:00 pm

Read Pyne, Stephen J. 1982. Fire in America for a good overview of how the Indians used fire. Another good read is “1491” about North America before Columbus. Short summary, they burned the place down every fall.
One of my friends is a Revolutionary War re-enactor on weekends. He’s pointed out to me that New England at the time of the arrival of the first Europeans was much more open that it is today because of the Indians’ use of fire. It’s quite obvious from the paintings of the seventeen hundreds, lots of wide open meadows and only small stands of trees. Fortunately the weather is wet around here. If there’s ever a major drought there’s at least a hundred years of trees just about everywhere that would feed enormous forest fires.

Reply to  Mike Maguire
July 25, 2015 12:28 am

How do you think the aborigines hunted? It’s called fire farming.

Reply to  old44
July 25, 2015 1:00 pm

Flame ranching?

July 24, 2015 9:56 am

Grizzly bears, polar bears, bison of all sorts in Europe and North America, a number of mega fauna survived the human hunter invaders one way or another. I would suggest that the hairy elephants and rhinos turned and attacked the humans who were, by then, HUNTING WITH DOG/WOLVES.
It was the human/canine factor that made life hell for the huge beasts that didn’t run in giant herds like the bison who would mob together and thunder past the hunters.

Don E
Reply to  emsnews
July 24, 2015 10:40 am

The very large mammals were slower moving and slower reproducing.

Reply to  Don E
July 28, 2015 9:01 pm

Exactly, Don E., there is evidence of North American Indians driving the the mega buffalo over a cliff on foot, and as you say mega fauna were large and no doubt they didn’t have multiple young who would be even more vulnerable than the adults. Mammoths were hunted or died out naturally. Climate change would have had some influence as humans moved more northwards in Europe as Mammoths were cold weather elephants really. I doubt if they were around 4,500 years ago but maybe they retreated to parts were humans were not settled. Anyway, humans survived long enough to develop agriculture and animal husbandry, which is more convenient than hunting or trapping a big mammoth.

Reply to  emsnews
July 24, 2015 3:37 pm

1 – Mammoth surviving into the last 10,000 years were – I think, exclusively – Wrangel Island dwarfs, with possibly some later survivals on Mediterranean islands, mostly dwarfs, too, and largely naïve, likewise; the full sized jobs going extinct 14-11,000 years ago, with – in N. America, some suggestion [in ‘Quaternary extinctions’ 1989] that there was, so far as could be told, a spreading date of last found mammoth with later dates south and east of the earlier dates.
More modern data may not show the same pattern . . . .
2 – Don is right about megafauna – ‘K’ strategists, slow reproduction, but most off-spring survive.
[Slower moving (?!) – I certainly can’t outrun a hippo or a rhino. . . .]
Until the novel arrives.
Humans were novel in N. America in [what/when ever] 23000/17000/13000 years ago.
They pitched up with a fully refined big-game hunter technology, very probably including atlatls – ‘spear throwers’ – and found an entirely naïve fauna.
If they crossed the Beringia land-bridge (rather than migrated by canoe/kayak/raft/ocean liner/whatever) they had also managed to pass the Short-faced Bear, a cursorial predator of – perhaps – 1000 Kg.
So – no mean survivalists.
Indeed, in parts of New Guinea, even in the Twentieth Century, humans could stroke wild animals like tree kangaroos [or kill them] – as they were so astonishingly unused to the human [usually the human predator].
Now, for my part, climate change – ever with us – may have added a stressor; that may have been the straw that broke the camelid’s – and elephantid’s, etc. – back.
Opening up ice corridors might also have allowed similar animals to arrive, bringing unknown, but communicable, diseases to N. America, and that, too, may have been an added stressor.
Dogs – possibly a factor, but assuming wolves – Dire wolves e.g. – predated Man in N America, possibly a hindrance – (mega)fauna aware of wolves and their abilities . . . .
And other stressors that I can’t recall or imagine: doubtless some.
But, for me, Man the Killer is pretty good for hitherto isolated populations, certainly when our people arrived with big game hunter technologies – even firearms in the seventeenth century or later.
N. America;
S. America;
Australia [though there is a stronger climate signal there, I suggest];
– and oceanic islands – Hawaiian avifauna, elephant birds, moas, dodos etc.

Reply to  Auto
July 24, 2015 4:11 pm

Wolves minus humans with lots of killing tools=balance. Wolves plus humans armed to the teeth and wishing for meat and animal skins=much more hunting potential, much, much more than double the amount killed. Probably up to ten times greater success at hunting large mammals.

Reply to  Auto
July 24, 2015 7:51 pm

Grey Wolves did not predate mans arrival in North America by very much. The Irvingtonian dating that one usually sees is erroneous. It is based on some assumptions not supported by archeological evidence. A better dating is sometime within the Rancholabrean.

Sturgis Hooper
July 24, 2015 9:57 am

I wonder how Turney explains the extinction of Australia’s megafauna after humans arrived there. Ditto New Zealand, Hawaii, Madagascar, Cuba and other islands, in so far as they had megafauna.
Even the cold-adapted woolly mammoth species survived interglacials longer and hotter than the Holocene.
Recent genetic studies suggest that there were two distinct woolly populations, perhaps divergent enough to be considered subspecies. One went extinct about 45,000 years ago, when modern humans entered Europe and Siberia, and the other largely around 12 Ka, after our species invaded the Americas. The dwarf Wrangel Island population of this race however survived until much more recently.

Mark from the Midwest
July 24, 2015 9:58 am

Same parallel can be drawn to the North American Bison. There’s clear evidence of Bison 12,000 years ago, so they must have adapted to climate variation. It was the advent of the long rifle that almost eradicated the entire population.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Mark from the Midwest
July 25, 2015 9:23 am

Bison might have survived even firearms were hunters not encouraged to concentrate on cows, in order to help subdue the Plains Indians and make the region safe for farming and railroads.

July 24, 2015 10:01 am

It occurs to me that climate change might have been somewhat responsible for the extinctions in that it allowed humans access to previously frozen regions that were inhospitable most of the year.

Mumbles McGuirck
July 24, 2015 10:01 am

Do you understand? It was all of the SUVs and coal burning plants of the Cro-Magnons that are at fault. So it both man and climate that killed the beast.

July 24, 2015 10:03 am

In West Africa, the “feux de brousse” are set at the end of the dry season. These do not catch many wild animals and kill them, instead, the ashes are nitrogen-rich and serve to propmote the re-growth of the next crop of wild grasses.
The practice is common in west-central (Equatorial) Africa as well. It is a spectacular sight to see the grass burning on a highland ridge surrounded and dissected by tropical rain forest on all sides. The buffalo herds kind of wander sround the sheets of flame.

Mike Bromley the Kurd
July 24, 2015 10:06 am

Time series. An analysis of statistics. Models, anyone? And besides, if it WAS a climate change that caused it, no mention of it being just a good old natural event. An attempt to present CC as the theory of everything, so as to extrapolate forward to modern times. “This is important because…..[insert a climate-related impact].

Mike Smith
July 24, 2015 10:06 am

I do think there’s evidence that climate change will bring about the eventual extinction of one species. This is a good thing because they’re nasty little parasites commonly known as climate scientists 🙂

Reply to  Mike Smith
July 24, 2015 10:20 am

Mike: Did you see James Delingpole’s column today?‘t-have-to-be-venal-weird-and-creepy-to-work-in-climate-science-but-it-certainly-helps/

Reply to  imoira
July 24, 2015 11:11 am

Take the apopstrophe out of that URL – URLs do not allow aposprophes, which is why the link stops after the “n” in “don’t”

July 24, 2015 10:10 am

Humans kill in means other than directly when they migrate. Polynesia is rife with examples of how rats and dogs not only alter the environment directly, but by the introduction of diseases for which the local fauna have no immunity.

July 24, 2015 10:11 am

The La Brea Tar Pits in Southern California have yielded up many mammoth skeletons, which proves that the mammoths were living there, but there is no evidence that that the Southern California climate is what did them in.

Reply to  Combotechie
July 24, 2015 10:17 am

The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits is a great destination, especially if you have kids. I was there recently and remember seeing some discussion on climate change at one of the exhibits. I didn’t commit it to memory, but I do recall that there was no mention of, or linking it to phony climate change.

Reply to  philincalifornia
July 24, 2015 11:12 am

The description of the climate that I remember is “the climate then was much as it is today but slightly more lush”, or words to that effect.

Reply to  philincalifornia
July 24, 2015 11:15 am

“During the Ice Ages, the climate in Southern California was wetter and cooler than it is now. The plants that have been found in the tar pits are similar to those that now live about 300 miles to the north of the area (in a cooler, moister coastal region).”

Reply to  philincalifornia
July 24, 2015 12:17 pm

Horses too. Skeletons of horses had been dug up out of the tar pits. But for some reason horses disappeared from North America and did not come back until the Spanish brought them back.
But in Asia horsed did not disappear. So, why is that?

Reply to  philincalifornia
July 24, 2015 12:31 pm

Humans did nearly kill off all the Ice Age horses except for one herd in Mongolia. The reason we have so many horses now is due to them being socialized and then turned into human valuable working animals which were used for food, riding, fighting and pulling stuff.

Reply to  philincalifornia
July 24, 2015 12:40 pm

emsnews: “Humans did nearly kill off all the Ice Age horses except for one herd in Mongolia.”
Thank you for that; For a long time I figured this is what happened.
I would like to delve further into this subject. Do you have any sources of information I can tap into?

Reply to  philincalifornia
July 24, 2015 4:13 pm

There are a number of studies going back to the 19th century about the evolution of the domestication of horses. The best sources come from Russia where the last wild horses were first named and observed by Russian scientists 150 years ago.

Steve P
Reply to  philincalifornia
July 25, 2015 10:28 am

July 24, 2015 at 12:31 pm
“Humans did nearly kill off all the Ice Age horses except for one herd in Mongolia.”
July 24, 2015 at 4:13 pm
“There are a number of studies”
Would you mind providing a link?

Reply to  Combotechie
July 24, 2015 11:49 am

I would think that falling into a pit of molten tar would be a sufficient condition to cause death. No need for an IPCC pronouncement there.

Reply to  Jeffrey
July 24, 2015 2:21 pm

Just for the record, the tar was RT. Water floating on top. Animals went to drink/bath, and became Tarbabys. La Brea is a Monterey Shale sourced microcosm of the Athabascan Tar sands in Canada, once you let a ‘few’ more million years go by.

July 24, 2015 10:12 am

You don’t need to hunt 4,000 lb animals to drive them to extinction. Besides being dangerous, it is entirely unnecessary. You need hunt only their adorable 300lb offspring at the moment of birth to wipe out the entire population within a single generation. They’re just as tasty and far less dangerous. Wolves do the same thing.

Reply to  dp
July 24, 2015 11:09 am

Impossible. “Native” future-Americans lived in total and blissful harmony with nature, doncha know? The idea of them hunting something to extinction is not only a slur on their genetaically superior love of the natural but is likely RACIST.

Reply to  inMAGICn
July 24, 2015 11:21 am

Just read the book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus Book by Charles C. Mann to see how much evidence there is for massive terraforming by Native Americans there is.
Case in point: the billions of passenger pigeons that used to darken the skies were a result of the decimation of the native population which wasn’t there to burn the forests to control the population.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  inMAGICn
July 24, 2015 11:40 am

That’s right primitive man lived in harmony with nature (tears in my eyes). I just cannot imagine what happened at Chaco Canyon, Easter Island, etc..

Reply to  inMAGICn
July 24, 2015 11:48 am
July 24, 2015 10:15 am

Everything I have read says the megafauna survived multiple ice ages, only dying out when humans showed up. The fossil record shows all fauna, plant and animal, simply migrated North or South, depending on the temperature.
These people are crazy. Just crazy. That they have any credibility is, or should be, an embarrassment to all of us.

Reply to  joel
July 24, 2015 2:59 pm

Those crazy people are the ones who say it is capitalism and modern greed which is destroying everything. We all should go back to living like the noble savages. Of course with rusting windmill carcases that the elders can point to as the choices made which brought utopia back to the masses. Whoops, masses is incorrect. It would be the scattered remnants.

Robert B
Reply to  joel
July 25, 2015 12:36 am

Someone above mentioned that the fauna around the La Brea tar pits during the last ice age were now growing 300 miles north. With an average speed of 1/1000th of a mile per hour even a sloth with gout could have migrated to better climes in 30 years.

Bill Illis
July 24, 2015 10:20 am

When CO2 levels and rainfall were low during the ice ages, open grassland and desert was the dominant environment of North America (and just about everywhere else). There was no trees or bushes on the planet except for very small areas in the current equatorial rainforests (and the US southeast for some reason). The Mammoth ate grass (as did all the other megafauna except for a few large carnivores).
When the trees and the other broad-leafed plants came back as the CO2 levels and rainfall rose, there was less open grassland left to sustain a low reproductive rate large species.
And don’t forget how much water melted off the continent-wide glaciers turning every single river into a raging torrent miles wide and every low spot into a brand new lake. Lots of the large animals drowned when trying to ford the monster rivers or getting caught on a island in the middle of a new 100 km-wide lake.

Rob Dawg
July 24, 2015 10:22 am

I imagine like in most emerging science that the truth lies in the middle. The megafauna were undoubtably reduced to isolated pockets that might or might not have survived had they not been finished off by human practices; hunting, fire, etc. OR it might have been the other way round where predation (not just humans) isolated pockets that were then finished off by climate change unable to migrate to survivable climates. So much of the period was washed away post glacial or inundated by sea level rise it is surprising we are able to deduce as much as we have.

July 24, 2015 10:29 am

There is evidence both ways, as well as for disease. It depends on where and which species. Evidence for hunting in American southwest, the Clovis culture. Evidence for climate in New England since megafauna collapse (mastodon, mammoth largely predated arrival,of paleoindians, and no evidence of them having been hunted in the brief period of final overlap. Evidence for disease in the Rockies. Evidence for hunting plus the aboriginal use of fire in Australia. All peer reviewed stuff. Probable answer is all three played a role in the general event.
Color me unimpressed with Turney’s finding that most (but not all) of the most recent megafauna extinction happened as the world warmed out of the most recent glacial into the holocene. Glad he reconfirmed what was already known. But correlation is not causation.

July 24, 2015 10:29 am

Those dang evil humans, destroying everything, killing the megafauna, causing global warming. Sounds like they are parasites on mother Gaia and should be eradicated.

Reply to  SMC
July 24, 2015 12:01 pm

Poe’s law, my friend. You need to go a lot farther than that if you want to get meaningful satire these days.

Reply to  benofhouston
July 24, 2015 12:40 pm

He says the mammoths are extinct like that’s a BAD thing–can you just imagine the traffic jams if the damn things were roaming loose on the streets of midtown Manhattan? Leaving giant pies behind, and raiding the trash cans? Come ON, people!

Janice the Elder
Reply to  SMC
July 24, 2015 2:48 pm

“Those dang evil humans, destroying everything, killing the megafauna, causing global warming. Sounds like they are parasites on mother Gaia and should be eradicated.”
Notice that nobody ever theorizes that humans might be Mother Gaia’s way of ending all life? Maybe Mother Gaia doesn’t like life-forms at all. Maybe that is why all the other planets are barren wastelands, because She has already dealt with them.

Jon Lonergan
Reply to  Janice the Elder
July 24, 2015 3:37 pm

I like that one!

Reply to  Janice the Elder
July 24, 2015 3:47 pm

Was I once married to you?

Silver ralph
July 24, 2015 10:39 am

Article Quote.
Unexpectedly, rapid climate changes associated with interstadial warming events are strongly associated with the regional replacement/extinction of major genetic clades or species of megafauna.
Interesting. So why are the remains of mammoths freshly trapped in perma-frost ice? Complete with stomachs full of fresh fodder? And this was due to a rapid warming? Am I missing something?
I think we need a cull of academia …. mammoth-style …. herd them to a cliff and let them fall off.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Silver ralph
July 24, 2015 11:50 am

Here is an article describing pre-Columbians hunting large animals.

Warren Latham
Reply to  Silver ralph
July 24, 2015 12:59 pm

Absolutely spot on Ralph.
I’ll even lend a hand, shoulder or a very large cucumber.

Reply to  Silver ralph
July 26, 2015 10:25 am

And at least one frozen mammoth was found in Siberia with buttercups in its stomach. And buttercups no longer grow in Siberia as it’s too cold there. Yet the climate ‘scientologists’ will tell you it’s warmer now in Siberia than it was then. They know that for a fact!

July 24, 2015 10:41 am

Well just maybe those humans showed up with Virus from Eurasia on board! Or an Avian carrier. Re read “plight of the bumblebees” posted earlier. By the way Buffalo Jump, Canada has one of many solutions that hunting societies came up with to hunt large animals in relative safey.

Tom J
July 24, 2015 10:48 am

It’s the buffalo jumps that did it. Seriously. I believe one of the jumps is in southern Alberta, Canada. In any case it’s a UNESCO site and I believe the name is “Head Smashed In.” The name came from an American Indian legend that told of a young brave that stood at the bottom of the cliff so as to witness the falling buffaloes, and as a result got his head crushed.
Most animals that travel in herds can be encouraged to the stampede. The tribes would initiate a stampede by knocking sticks, stones; anything to make loud noises. Then they’d try to direct the stampede right over a cliff. Even the flat prairie lands in which these animals lived had many cliffs; witness the Badlands of North and South Dakota. The whole herd would plummet to their deaths over the edge of the cliff. The tribe would collect the meat and furs from the dead animals at the base.
Despite all the blithering nonsense about preindustrial peoples being so as one with nature the foregoing wasteful practice should point out that such was not the case. Whole herds were wiped out by the practice. Most of the animals just rotted. But, like any other living creature these people did what they had to do to survive.
BTW: ‘Head Smashed In’ was believed to have been in operation for a thousand years. I believe the animal remains may be as deep as a hundred feet at the base.

Reply to  Tom J
July 24, 2015 12:37 pm

What happened in the Old World was, as hunting became more and more difficult due to humans (hunting with dogs and then horses) had to preserve these same animals they hunted. We call this process ‘domestication’ and this was done with camels (which came from North America!) and horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, geese, etc.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  emsnews
July 24, 2015 12:49 pm

So did horses.
Both camels and llamas evolved in North America, but died out here while surviving on the continents to which they migrated.
Bison and a number of other ruminants passed the horses and camels going the other way from Asia.

Tim Bromige
Reply to  Tom J
July 24, 2015 5:28 pm

Funnily enough, I just so happen to be wearing my Head-Smashed In Buffalo Jump t-shirt right now!

Reply to  Tom J
July 25, 2015 6:17 am

You don’t even need a cliff, as that is rather wasteful. All you need is a 3m drop, and one or two of the jumpers are bound to break a leg.
There is a technical term for a bison with a broken leg – dinner….

Michael 2
July 24, 2015 10:50 am

No matter how you slice it: “Four legs good, two legs bad.” 😉

Louis Hunt
Reply to  Michael 2
July 24, 2015 12:45 pm

I don’t know about that. A KFC bucket full of two-legged chickens aren’t bad in my opinion. Maybe it would be more accurate to say, “Dumb instinct good, intelligence bad.” So Obviously, we need to pass a law against evolution. There’s no room on this planet for highly adaptive and innovative species. /Sarc

Reply to  Louis Hunt
July 24, 2015 3:54 pm

And how many legs does a watermelon have?

July 24, 2015 10:53 am

And then there is always Velikovsky’s theory of how the mommoths disappeared.

July 24, 2015 10:54 am

This discussion has taken place here before with some blaming “climate change”, some blaming humans for hunting them to extinction like the Buffalo, and several suggesting both, particularly as the Mammoths herds were decimated by a changing food supply due to a warming climate and more susceptible to hunting. It should be noted that it is claimed the last of the Mammoths died out far from humans on Wrangel Island.
“As for humans causing the extinction, our study doesn’t provide any evidence supporting this idea, but on the other hand there is no data disproving it either”, said Dr Dalén in email.
“But the mammoth didn’t become completely extinct at the end of the last ice age, since it survived another 5,000 years on Wrangel Island”, continued Dr Dalén in email.
“What caused this population (and consequently the species as a whole) to go extinct is unknown. It could have been climate, humans or inbreeding (these are the three main hypotheses)”, said Dr Dalén. “Or even disease”.
Dr Dalén did remind me that if the current warm period (the Holocene) “hadn’t been so darn long” — more than 10,000 years — mammoths likely would still be alive.
Like most good research, this study raises more questions than it answers.
OK, Turney isn’t a source one trusts due to the “Ship of Fools” incident.
But it you do a search with your favourite search engine on: “mammoth extinction due to warming climate” you will find lots of references. Of course lots of “alarmists” use this as confirmation bias of their worst fears and others with a different bias try to use it to dismiss alarmist fears.
The fact is, the last of the mammoths left us thousands of years ago. (can we trust carbon dating anymore given that it has been contaminated by burning fossil fuels – WUWT ref. — just kidding.)
Until we invent a time machine, it is all just hypothesis and we will cherry pick the results according to our own confirmation bias.
Maybe Turney has something interesting to say. If you look at a search on the subject, and you are interested in mammals from watch “Ice Age” with your kids or grand kids, you will find other people from all over the word studying their extinction including weather we ought to bring some back in a Jurasic Park like experiment. It is claimed to be possible, but why? Their food supply is long gone.
Keep an open mind. Even those you disagree with sometimes have good ideas you can use. No need to slag them. (Remember the post WWII saying: “Are your rocket scientists better than our rocket scientists?”)
One last thought: If they are promoting fear of rapid climate change due to fossil fuels, what caused these 31 “Unexpectedly, rapid climate changes associated with interstadial warming events are strongly associated with the regional replacement/extinction of major genetic clades or species of megafauna” over the last 56,000 years? Mammoth fxrts?
Maybe most of what we are seeing today is natural variation? Cherry pick your choice.
Just like climate change, there are probably MULTIPLE reasons for the extinction of Mammoths. Should we be surprised? Or annoyed? Or should we try to learn?

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Wayne Delbeke
July 24, 2015 11:11 am

The authors apparently are ignorant of geology. The Eemian was warmer than and lasted longer than the Holocene, yet mammoths survived it. Except for Wrangel Island, no mammoths are known to have survived the earliest Holocene (if even lasting into it as usually defined). And those on Wrangel died out thousands of years ago, ie at a point to which even short interglacials would have lasted. So it’s absurd to blame the length of the Holocene.

July 24, 2015 10:55 am

The same anthropological egoism that assumes we are much smarter than our forebears, so they couldn’t have possibly found simple, labor-saving ways of moving multi-ton stones to build megalithic structures without hordes of slaves, also assumes *their* forebears had nothing more potent than sticks and stones to bring down megafauna.
Just as it was accidentally discovered that the Incas had extremely clever ways of shaping massive stones using mainly wood, leather, and water, I expect it will someday be discovered that the same cleverness could have wiped out entire herds of mammoths using mainly teamwork and the local geography, even as the Native Americans used to do with the bison at “buffalo jumps.”

Reply to  tadchem
July 24, 2015 3:56 pm

Atlatls, and fire, would help.

July 24, 2015 11:12 am

The death of the Mammoths has been tied to an impact event.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Walter J Horsting
July 24, 2015 11:21 am

Except that there is no valid evidence of an impact then. And why didn’t the alleged impact kill off thwe Caribbean megafauna?

Reply to  Walter J Horsting
July 24, 2015 3:58 pm

And N. American mammoths – and mega fauna, survived to about 11,000 years ago – not BC/BCE.
A stressor – possibly, if validated. Some suggestion that it is not fully validated.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Auto
July 25, 2015 9:21 am

It’s not validated at all.

July 24, 2015 11:21 am

The carrier pigeon was also killed by climate change. So were JFK, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe.

Reply to  pete
July 24, 2015 12:42 pm

You forgot Bigfoot.

Reply to  Goldrider
July 25, 2015 1:04 pm

They’ve never buried a Bigfoot.

July 24, 2015 11:32 am

FWIW, here’s how the Pygmies of Africa used to hunt elephants:
In his note on “.4 Wooden Spear of Third Interglacial Age from Lower Saxony,’’
Dr. H. L. Movius, Jr.? refers to the elephant hunting methods of the Pygmies of the
Cameroons, and I was especially interested in his remarks in this regard. From 1932
to 1936 I was prospecting in the Ituri Forest of the Belgian Congo among Pygmies and
elephants. There the Pygmies hunt the elephant in a manner that is very like the one
described by E. Zwilling for the Cameroons. The differences are as follows:
1. In the Ituri Forest the Pygmies use short lances with a very large and broad iron blade
(cu. 30×20 cm.) mounted on a short (cu. 75 cm.) and thick handle made of hardwood.
This weapon is razor sharp, and normally it belongs to a Bantu chieftain for whom the
Pygmies hunt under some sort of a contract.
2. The hunter sneaks una?meath the standing elephant and thrusts the spear upward into its
soft belly with a lightning-quick movement. This is a choice place because the shortnecked
elephant can neither see under its belly nor reach there with its trunk. Of course,
the hunter seizes the first second during which the wounded beast is wondering what
has happened to him to jump aside. Sometimes they have time to give the handle a jerk
thereby enlarging the wound.
Before approaching his quarry the Pygmy hunter goes to one of the shallow pools,
where the animals have their daily mudbath, and smears his entire body with mud, so
he cannot be smelled out by his quarry. He is absolutely naked when hunting.

Reply to  Combotechie
July 24, 2015 12:00 pm

Pygmy killing elephants did require BALLS. I find it amusing that some anthropologists thought that the mere presence of the short faced bear was enough of an obstacle to human migration from Asia to the Americas as to influence the timing of that migration.

July 24, 2015 11:46 am

The LaBrea tar pits provide evidence that many animals adapted to ice age conditions were replaced as climate changed.
Chunky dire wolves and sabertooth cats were replaced by more nimble gray wolves and cougars. A larger species of bison was replaced by the one almost killed off by Europeans with guns.
Meanwhile, coyotes, a more adaptable canine that existed along with dire wolves, thrive.
The mammoth species that went extinct recently was itself a replacement for a previous mammoth species. Perhaps it too would have evolved if not for more efficient grazers and predators encroaching on its preferred habitat (it did evolve on Wrangel Island, becoming smaller).
I don’t understand why the cause of the mammoth’s demise is such an issue. If humans don’t kill off the elephants, the next ice age might produce a replacement.

Reply to  verdeviewer
July 24, 2015 12:28 pm

“Thverdeviewer: “The LaBrea tar pits provide evidence that many animals adapted to ice age conditions were replaced as climate changed.”
Except ice age conditions did not exist in Southern California as they existed elsewhere. Whatever it was that killed off the mammoths in Southern California, it wasn’t ice.

Reply to  Combotechie
July 24, 2015 3:17 pm

I think you’ve got some difficulty with reading comprehension, Combotechie. Nowhere did I suggest that ice age mammals were killed by ice. And whatever conditions existed in Southern California during the last ice age were “ice age conditions” at that location. Southern California was definitely cooler and wetter at the last glacial maximum, with temperate forest. Sea level was over 300 feet lower. Then things changed.
I’m saying “invasive species” can contribute to the demise of resident flora and fauna when climatic conditions favor the invaders. And I don’t understand how climatological causes for the mammoth’s extinction provides any argument for climatastrophy.

July 24, 2015 11:50 am

One must realize that the mammoth is only one species of many that died out, and not only North America, also the other America’s and Eurasia. Megafauna has also died out at places that are totally devoid of any sign of humans at that time, like for instance the Taymyr peninsula and Wrangel island. We do know that climate changed dramatically in North Siberia, distroying the megafauna steppe.
But that does not explain why camels died out in the Yukon and Alaska thousends of years earlier etc, etc, and why the giant deer died out only some 5000 years ago, let alone the extinction of the European Straight tusked elephant much earlier during the late Pleistocene, like the European hippo’s and rhino’s and the european Sabertooth cat. It’s not that a single species died out at a single place at a single time.

Robert Ballard
July 24, 2015 11:55 am

Honor the wolf, for the wolf keeps the caribou strong.

Bruce Cobb
July 24, 2015 12:01 pm

Funny how “climate change” is code for warming for Warmunist “researchers”.

July 24, 2015 12:09 pm

Ah dear Chris, he set me off writing jolly little ditties

Louis Hunt
July 24, 2015 12:20 pm

“Mammoths survived from the Pliocene epoch, around five million years ago, to around 4500 years ago…”

When I was in school, I was told that Mammoths went extinct over 10,000 years ago. But the date keeps moving up. That makes sense because, as the population got smaller, their remains would be fewer and harder to find. In 2013, Discover Magazine put the date at about 3700 years ago:
“Scientists believe the last of them may have died on Russia’s Wrangel Island in the Arctic around 1700 B.C.”

Adam Gallon
July 24, 2015 12:48 pm

Funny how we’re now finding their remains, frozen in permafrost.

July 24, 2015 1:07 pm

Yup it was climate change that done it. It also wiped out some of my distant relatives from the neander valley. It is becoming apparent some small groups of distant relatives survived nearly intact, and have gone on to write papers and do climate research. The concern about climate change must be imprinted into the genes of the survivors, any change triggering climate paranoia. The concern must be real in their minds, especially after such a climate related disaster.

July 24, 2015 1:11 pm

I see that none of the comments mention the Younger Dryas period, an abrupt cold spell between 12,900 and 11,500 years B.P. Prior to that time mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, glyptodonts, short-faced bears, the American lion, Dire wolves, horses, and camels roamed North America. By the end of the Younger Dryas cold spell, most of these animals had disappeared. The cause of the disappearance is controversial. Perhaps it was a combination of climate (cold), hunting, and disease. Bison were in North America at the time and they survived. It’s still a mystery.

July 24, 2015 1:34 pm

Eric W: this Turney article has a little information about the climate change extinctions.
I wonder if we can prove the climate also killed the dodo?

July 24, 2015 1:45 pm

Turney may be right. He probably is not, but what do I know.
I would like to know if he ever planted those kauri trees he promised, to offset his disastrous southern jaunt

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 24, 2015 2:01 pm

It has always struck me that there is an almost pathological aversion by many earth scientists to the idea that astronomical events can have major influences on life on earth. Several of your contributors have mentioned the possibility of a major impact event in North America being involved in the mega-fauna extinction and a look at the extraordinarily long list of very well adapted animals that disappear seems to indicate something more dramatic that handfuls of early people developing a serious grudge against mammoths when there was plenty of other game at hand besides. After all there are still plenty of earth scientists about – volcanologists in particular – who are in denial about the severity of the KT impact being sufficient to kill the dinosaurs.
It took modern Americans armed with repeating rifles and backed up by serious monetary reward a couple of decades to not quite wipe out the bison. Yet we are seriously asked to believe that handfuls of early people embarked on the extermination of vast herds of dangerous animals in a way that is at odds with everything we know about the behaviour of subsistence tribal people.
Or we can think about widespread evidence of an impact event leaving shocked impact materials and glasses that appears to be right in date for the mega-fauna extinction and the undoubted climate change that would have followed.
But then I forget that the only climate change allowed is when it is caused by people burning fossil fuels.Put another mammoth on the fire please.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 24, 2015 2:34 pm

The impact hypothesis for Holocene megafauna has been debunked over and over, yet is still out there. You are evidence. The supposed layer in various deposits in the Northern hemisphere have been radiocarbon dated. They all come in at different ages, probably the result of forest fires. So unless you think radiocarbon dating is bunkum, the hypothesis is busted. Don’t have the URL to hand, but IIRC the definitive paper came from or was in rebuttal to U. Arizona.

Reply to  ristvan
July 24, 2015 9:41 pm

Clovis man appears on the North American continent 12-13k years ago. The Younger Dryas period of drastic NH climate change, possibly caused by an impact, occurs from 11-12k years ago. Wooly Mammoths go extinct 10k years ago.What was the population of North American people 10k years ago? Maybe a few tens of thousands? Pre-Columbian estimates are only in the range of 2 million people and that’s 9.5k years after the major mammoth extinction. So, how many people would it take, 10k years ago, to wipe out the mammoths on a continent of 9.5 million square miles? The hunting hypothesis is ‘bunkum’ and likely serves to confirm Paul Ehrlich’s Anthropocene extinction ideas.

Reply to  ristvan
July 25, 2015 3:34 am


Pre-Columbian estimates are only in the range of 2 million people and that’s 9.5k years after the major mammoth extinction.

I believe the consensus estimate has been moving much higher in recent years. By a factor of five to ten and possibly more. Post-Columbian disease probably reduced native North American populations significantly and made it easier for Euopeans to steal their land.

Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
July 25, 2015 9:29 am

-“After all there are still plenty of earth scientists about – volcanologists in particular – who are in denial about the severity of the KT impact being sufficient to kill the dinosaurs.”
Claiming someone is a denier when the evidence for your hypothesis is becoming weaker & weaker, hmmmmm where have I heard that before?
Actually the Impact people are like the Geocentrists, in that instead of adding more & more epicycles they keep adding more & more impacts.

July 24, 2015 2:25 pm

I always thought the woolly mammoth faded away when polyester came out.

Reply to  Max Photon
July 24, 2015 4:05 pm

Fortunately my coffee mug was empty. Plus one!

M Seward
July 24, 2015 2:28 pm

The use of fire by ancient humans is pretty well established in Australia where it is now clear after more than 2 centuries of european ‘settlement’ that the ‘natural’ landscape now is very different from that when the ships first arrived.
There are many, many references from the early days to the landscape looking like ‘an english gentleman’s park’ which is now how one would describe it now. It turns out that the Australian Aborigines were ‘constant gardeners’ whose primary large scale tool was fire. They emlpoyed a number of fire regime stragetgies to ‘sculpt’ the flora typically say creating open clearings with grass adjacent wooded areas from which grazing animals could be attacked. Other outcomes were also achieved which made life more convenient. They turned a natural idiosyncracy of the Australian flora, fire adaption which achieved what cold winters and snow achieves where decidiuous flora dominate, to their advantage.
It does not take much imagination then to appreciate that the same human intelligence and keen sense of understanding of the environemnet necessary for survival could have developed a stratagy to kill megafauna including one which employed fire.
You would think Turney, being based in Australia, would make the connection or does the ship of fools metaphor apply to UNSW more generally, that outpost of modern academia recently settled (invaded) by a particularly toxic strain of educated idiot.
The paper in question sounds like a classic LPU ( least publishable unit) which is the ‘big mac index’ unit that applies to academia these days. Essentially it is about published papers being a unit of marketing impact not intellectual output. A bit like those flyers you get from your local elected representative telling you what a great job they are doing and to contact them any time to tell them your ideas or concerns… but without the substance.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
July 24, 2015 2:46 pm

Someone needs to get Turney back on message. If pre-pre-pre-industrial climate change extinctified the mammoths, that means at least one major extinction wasn’t our fault. This is not politicially correct and cannot be permitted in the consensus discourse. Everything bad that happens in the world is the fault of humans. Sheesh — it’s like herding cats with these guys.

Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
July 24, 2015 4:10 pm

Are you implying – despite lack of /sarc tag – that the demise of the dinosaurs (except the dinoaves) might not have been caused by H sapiens and his’n’hers SUVs?
I have a particularly stringent soap if you do need to wash your mouth out after uttering an obvious impiety!
PS mods – yeah – /sarc
I know the Permian mass-extinction was entirely due to careless Chelsea Tractor drivers.

July 24, 2015 2:57 pm

But the real problem was that getting rid of all those dead animals was a mammoth undertaking so to speak.

chris moffatt
Reply to  ShrNfr
July 24, 2015 3:57 pm

turkey buzzards – still not extinct!

Steve P
Reply to  chris moffatt
July 25, 2015 10:49 am

They should be, as Turkey vultures are not buzzards.

July 24, 2015 3:06 pm

Big land animals were killed by climate change not stone age humans. Don’t let these people buffalo you.

chris moffatt
Reply to  Joel Sprenger
July 24, 2015 4:05 pm

So that is why there are no ice bears, brown bears, elk and moose. Thanks. I always wondered about that.

Reply to  chris moffatt
July 25, 2015 5:03 am

You need a tuneup on your pun filter.

Eric Hales
July 24, 2015 3:15 pm

Just for reference regarding Pleistocene megafauna extinctions & cometary participation:
There was an excellent paper posted at scribd ( entitled “Palaeolithic extinctions and the Taurid Complex” by W. M. Napier that has unfortunately been taken down due to copyright infringement – may be available elsewhere.
My sense is that the debate regarding Pleistocene extinctions is far from over.

July 24, 2015 3:45 pm

The problem with the humans-did-it hypothesis is that widest variety and largest numbers of megafauna are located precisely where humans have the most persistent and ancient presence….Africa. Secondly, they are currently found where humans have a very ancient and possibly the densest current presence…India. Both locations which, I add, are in the tropics.
And clearly, climate change killed the literally millions of flash frozen megafauna in Siberia….but I have never seen anyone, other than Velikovsky or Hapgood, attempt an explanation of this true “elephant in the living room”.

Reply to  phodges
July 25, 2015 9:42 am

1) The African megafauna evolved a long side of humans. Therefore they had an advantage over their European/American counterparts
2) Humans did actually cause many extinctions. There were several different species of elephants, hippos, giraffes, Saber toothed cats living in Africa when humans first came about.
3) A new dominant predator on the scene is often the cause of mass extinctions.
For example, About 2 million years ago, the isthmus of Panama rose out the sea. This allowed the Saber toothed tiger in the north to enter South America where it wreaked havoc on the previously isolated continent. Much of South American’s mega-fuana was no match for the Saber Toothed cats and were driven extinct (most notably the continent’s dominant predator at the time, the Terror Birds).
So if Saber Toothed Tigers can cause all that damage, it’s not hard too see human who are much better and efficient hunters doing the same.

Steve P
Reply to  Qam1
July 25, 2015 11:53 am

‘Odd then, that one of the so-called terror birds – Titanis lived in Florida and Texas before the land bridge formed.
“A University of Florida-led study has determined that Titanis walleri, a prehistoric 7-foot-tall flightless “terror bird,” arrived in North America from South America long before a land bridge connected the two continents.”
Odder still, that despite their fearsome reputation, imposing beaks, and talons, most of the terror birds lacked binocular vision. Killer whales lack binocular vision, but these marine mammals use echolocation for sensory input while hunting.
Unless someone can present evidence of a modern predator lacking both binocular vision and echolocation, I remain unconvinced that the terror birds were predators.

chris moffatt
July 24, 2015 3:55 pm

“The presence of many cryptic biotic transitions prior to the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary revealed by ancient DNA confirms the importance of climate change in megafaunal population extinctions and suggests that metapopulation structures necessary to survive such repeated and rapid climatic shifts were susceptible to human impacts. ”
Quite possibly true but so what? Nothing here not already known. I wonder if he would count the great auks and the beothuks among those (mega)fauna eradicated by climate change?

Steve P
July 24, 2015 3:56 pm

July 24, 2015 at 10:12 am
I don’t think so. The First People were smarter than you might realize. Why would they want to “wipe out” their primary food source?
When a European joined the Inoca for a buffalo hunt, he was too terrified to do much, but eventually mustered the courage to kill a bison calf, for which he was scolded by the tribe elders for wasting a bullet.
Inoca (Ilimouec, Illinois, Illini, Peoria) Ethnohistory Project:
Eye Witness Descriptions of the Contact Generation,
1667 – 1700

To return to the hunt in which our savages engaged, they killed 120 buffalos from which they brought back a hundred tongues. The people from my cabin smoked these and distributed them among themselves to carry to me.
We remained a week in this place in order to dry all this meat. They make for this purpose a kind of cradle ten feet long, three feet wide, and four feet high, which they call gris, upon which they spread out their meat after preparing it. Under this they kindle a little fire. They are at it for a day, ordinarily, when they wish to dry a flat side. There are two of these in a buffalo. They take it from the shoulder clear to the thigh and from the hump to the middle of the belly, after which they spread it out as thin as they can, making it usually four feet square. They fold it up while still hot, like a portfolio, so as to make it easier to carry. The most robust men and women carry as many as eight, for a whole day. This is not possible in autumn nor in winter, however, as the cows are then very fat; they then can carry four at most.
The drying of this meat by the women and girls does not prevent the young men from going to the chase every day each for himself, for it is only when they all go together that they have guards. If anyone has no luck (which rarely happens in buffalo hunting), his relatives contribute from their share. These little hunts are ordinarily for bucks, bears, and young turkeys, on which they feast, not failing to invite the strangers whom they have among them (a very frequent thing), such as Miami, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and others; so that there were days when I was invited as many as ten times. We did not dare to refuse, having learned that they were grieved if anyone who was among them did not come.
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;

Memoir of De Gannes Concerning the Illinois Country
By the time Illinois became a state in 1818, most of the surviving Inoca had “sold” their land to the U.S. Gov’t, and shuffled off first to Kansas, then to Oklahoma, where their descendants remain.
The point here, however, is it was not the seeming extravagance of the Inoca’s buffalo hunts that threatened to wipe out bison in N. America, but rather a coordinated effort to deprive the native people of their primary food source:
Some scholars suggest that in order to make migration to the west easier, the US government, through the Army, adopted a policy to exterminate the buffalo. Extermination of the buffalo would inevitably mean the demise of the Indians who so relied on them for almost every aspect of their existence.
“Although the army was plagued by strategic failures, the near extermination of the American bison during the 1870s helped to mask the military’s poor performance. By stripping many Indians of their available resources, the slaughter of the buffalo severely reduced the Indians’ capacity to continue an armed struggle against the United States. The military’s role in this matter is difficult to asses. Sheridan and Sherman recognized that eliminating the buffalo severely reduced the Indians’ capacity to continue an armed struggle against the United States. The editors of the Army and Navy Journal supported the proposition, comparing such an effort with Civil War campaigns against Confederate supplies and food sources.”
Color me highly skeptical that hunters with bows and spears exterminated the mammoths and mastodons that populated N. America. The accounts of the cliff drives are interesting, but I suggest that there are not many suitable cliffs where such a maneuver may be executed, and as the DeGannes memoir makes clear, the meat has to be lugged back to the camp/village at some point.

Steve from Rockwood
Reply to  Steve P
July 24, 2015 4:30 pm

It’s pretty well established (at least I thought it was) that First Nations often exhausted their food supply. That’s why their settlements were temporary and scattered around. If you’ve ever been to a northern First Nations settlement you will know why most don’t bother to hunt and fish anymore. The lakes near the settlements are all fished out and the wildlife has been hunted to extinction. You will often find caribou near the exploration camps – places where hunting is not allowed.

Gilles B
Reply to  Steve P
July 24, 2015 5:02 pm

Thanks Steve P,agreed.
I am surprised not to read on this thread about the different abrupt and catastrophic climate changes at the onset of the Younger Dryas, during and at the end.
There is a book from Allan and Delair : Cataclysm ! Compelling evidence of a cosmic catastrophe in 9500 BC
This explains the extinctions much better in my opinion. A specie can be extinct in a couple of weeks if it has no food supply.

Steve from Rockwood
July 24, 2015 4:18 pm

A few years ago I read a book (1492, Bones?) that claimed there were far more people in North and South America than we would care to admit (prior to the arrival of the Europeans). So why wouldn’t they have had a much greater negative impact on the environment?

Reply to  Steve from Rockwood
July 24, 2015 5:15 pm
July 24, 2015 4:52 pm

Burning forests and grasslands huh? So that’s where the CO2 came from (sarc)

July 24, 2015 5:47 pm

12 May: AnOther Mag: Art at the Ends of the Earth
Antarctica enters the whirlwind of Venice with Concordia, a thoughtful installation considering exploration and morality
(Concordia is at the Antarctic Pavilion, Venice (The Venice Biennale) until November 22.)
The celebrated artist-curator pairing of Alexander Ponomarev and Nadim Samman, jointly named in the top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine, is now showing at the duo’s Antarctic Pavilion in Venice. “We appointed ourselves the cultural ministry of Antarctica,” says Samman. “We are interested in the concept of transnational community. Antarctica is the closest thing to an existing political utopia that we have on this planet. Antarctica is liberation.”…
Ponomarev and Samman view the continental ice shelf of the Antarctic as a blank canvas, freed from national, economic, military interests under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, and without a native population beyond a few penguins and a smattering of international scientists. Here, the pair propose a floating biennale.
***”A SHIP OF FOOLS or a floating embassy,” says Samman, “[that] will explore the potential of Antarctica for world culture.” Research ships carrying artists out voyaging over the southern oceans, making art away from the intervening scrum of collectors, gallerists and media, in search perhaps of a promised land, of purity, of a salvation from ourselves out over the ends of the world. Behold, the white whale, that great cold icy mass, that snowy hill. There she blows…

NZ Willy
July 24, 2015 6:16 pm

It is so obvious that human hunting was responsible for the large-animal extinctions of the past 20,000 years that scientists denying this deserve a “denier” label all of their own.

A Crooks
July 24, 2015 6:32 pm

What was the cause of these rapid fluctuations in climate?
Just how big and how rapid were they?
What were the CO2 levels during this climate change?
What was the impact on the human population during this sudden climate change?
What was the impact on whole of the biosphere?
The Bison certainly saw a “tipping point” but it would appear things just got better for the rest of us.

July 24, 2015 7:24 pm

The other issue here is why elephants still survive in Africa, which is often cited against the human influence for mammoth extinction. The answer is quite surprising.
You have to go to Africa for a while to realise what the answer is. Elephants there are protected from overhunting by humans, until very recently when guns arrived on the scene, by 2 major factors, the presence of many other dangerous carnivores which render hunting them impractical (you can be taken out by a lion or a leopard whilst hunting), and the presence of many other easier hunting alternatives (many kinds of plant eaters which are far easier to kill without a gun). Both these factors are absent when one leaves Africa and goes into colder regions.
In fact the presence of so many dangerous predators in Africa is so acute, that this is probably why humans evolved further north-in either Ethiopia which is much drier and has less predators- and possibly further north still around north Africa region-early homo sapiens was distinctly thin and tall suggesting most evolution occurred within warm dry climates where there are less predators to contend with.

July 24, 2015 7:58 pm

C’mon, guys. It’s simple. Cave men start fires. Fires produce CO2. CO2 causes Climate Change. Climate Change wipes out mammoths. Clear?

Lonie Ross
July 25, 2015 2:25 am

Always amazes me when i read that ” scientist ” knew what happened a few thousand years ago and and the same ” scientist ” are in the ” dark ” about current events .

July 25, 2015 4:52 am

Mammoths. So easy to kill, even a caveman can do it.

July 25, 2015 7:38 am

They were probably killed when the earth was struck by a giant icy comet 4,500 years ago. That is why they are found frozen with tropical vegetation still in their mouths and why we have so may specimens that are in great shape. They were frozen instantly and buried in ice. They weren’t killed by hunters and then eaten they are all still intact.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  elmer
July 27, 2015 5:54 am

What tropical vegetation?
Frozen Pleistocene megafauna stomachs contain steppe tundra vegetation.

Chip Javert
July 25, 2015 12:41 pm

This is exactly the type of drivel that falls out of digestive tracts of large, male bovines because there are no consequences in “the academy” for pure hogwash.
Having said that, I intend no disrespect to large male bovines.

Tom Crozier
July 26, 2015 8:25 am

We had mini-mammoths on our beaches. They enjoyed swimming.

Sturgis Hooper
Reply to  Tom Crozier
July 27, 2015 5:56 am

How can the climate change hypothesis explain the disappearance of less hairy Columbian mammoths along with the cold-adapted woollys?
A warmer world would have been to their liking, extending their range.

July 27, 2015 8:23 am

Megafauna died off in Australia shortly after the arrival of people. A coincidence ? Perhaps climate change did it ? But as with elsewhere outside Africa the megafauna survived long periods of climate fluctuations but most didn’t survive people.
And it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as imagined pictures of humans killing adult mammoths….herding them into traps or over cliffs.
Just chase down the young ones. Large animals are generally slow breeders. If you kill the smaller, more vulnerable juveniles you will drive animals to extinction more effectively and much more easily than trying to kill the adults.

July 28, 2015 2:41 pm
I think it has to do with magnetic reversals.

Mike from the sometimes cold side of the mountain in the Carson Valley
July 29, 2015 2:27 pm

LaBrea Tarpits. I have often wondered when someone would find the remains of at least a solitary stupid or clumsy humanoid that fell into one of those pits perhaps with clothes and weapons / gear sort of like the other beasts of those earlier times. It might prove interesting. Perhaps was pushed by friends ?

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