Monday, December 17, 2007

Extinctions update ow forests wiped out woolly mammoths
Woolly mammoths were among the biggest mammals to have walked the earth, but it appears they were driven into extinction by nothing more dangerous than trees.

A leading expert on the ice age will claim this week that, rather than being wiped out by human hunters, the giant creatures were doomed by the spread of forests around the world at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago.

Professor Adrian Lister, a palaeobiologist at University College London, has found that the extensive areas of frozen grassland on which mammoths thrived were gradually replaced by forests, leaving the animals nothing to eat.

Hmmm. One can foresee the criticisms of this from the Overkill crowd, namely that the same sort of change in climate and presumably vegetation had occurred before and the mammoths survived, so why not this time? The article suggests that people did not have a "major role", but one could argue that, without people taking out the refuge populations, the would have survived. Depends on his argument for whether or not similar changes in vegetation occurred at earlier periods or if the genetic variation contracted over time such that mammoth populations in earlier periods of similar vegetation change had sufficient variation then to survive.

No doubt, more to come. . . .