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Study: Paleolithic Hunters Contributed to Extinction of Woolly Mammoths

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June 13, 2012

Study: Paleolithic Hunters Contributed to Extinction of Woolly Mammoths

By Chad Love

A new study says that woolly mammoths were done in by a combination of climate change, shifting habitat and, to a lesser degree, those pesky Paleolithic hunters.

From this story on huffingtonpost.com:

Woolly mammoths were apparently driven to extinction by a multitude of culprits, with climate change, human hunters and shifting habitats all playing a part in the long decline of these giants, researchers say...Scientists have often speculated over what might have driven the mammoths to extinction. For instance, for years researchers suspected that ancient human tribes hunted the mammoths and other ice age giants to oblivion.

Others have suggested that a meteor strike might have drastically altered the climate in North America about 12,900 years ago, wiping out most of the large mammals there, the so-called "Younger Dryas impact hypothesis." Now an analysis of thousands of fossils, artifacts and environmental sites spanning millennia suggest that no one killer is to blame for the demise of the woolly mammoths. "These findings pretty much dispel the idea of any one factor, any one event, as dooming the mammoths," researcher Glen MacDonald, a geographer at the University of California, Los Angeles, told LiveScience.

According to the story, scientists analyzed samples from some 1,300 woolly mammoths and other artifacts collected from almost 600 sites. The data reveals that mammmoths and humans coexisted for thousands of years, but as climate and habitat shifted and mammoth numbers dropped accordingly, humans may have helped the species shuffle off this mortal coil by hunting mammoths out of the few remaining pockets of habitat they inhabited.

From the story: "The last mammoths seen on the continents were concentrated in the north. They apparently disappeared about 10,000 years ago as the climate warmed and peatlands, wet tundra and coniferous forests developed, environments to which mammoths were poorly suited. The long-lasting proximity between mammoths and humans suggested that our species was perhaps a factor in the beasts' decline, possibly killing off the final island populations of woolly mammoths that went extinct 3,700 years ago. Overall, these findings suggest the mammoths experienced a long decline due to many factors. "There was no one event that ended the mammoths," MacDonald said. "It was really the coalescence of climate changeand the habitat change that triggered [it], and also human predators on the landscape at the end."

Thoughts? Of course, if advances in genetic engineering continue we may end up getting the chance to hunt them again...

Comments (9)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Steward wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

I suspect human hunters had more to do with their demise than a meteorite. Hunt mammoths? Sign me up!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dasmith wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

I have heard stories of mammoth's being found in current times, frozen in ice and that they were cut up and used for food. Does anyone know if this is true.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Are they sure it wasn't because of the mammoth's diet and resulting flatulence? (See last month's story about dinosaur farts.)

Anyway, this reminds me of the film 10,000 BC. It was only mildly entertaining, but the hunt scenes were interesting. Near the end of the film, the protagonist relies upon the instincts of an enslaved herd bull mammoth to help his cause.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blue Ox wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Mammoth jerky, anyone?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JamesD wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

So let me get this straight, is the study saying that our ancestors chose to ignore those herds of easier to kill bison and opted for the much harder to kill and maybe more dangerous mammoth? While I have no doubt that early humans hunted mammoths to some extent I think given the small numbers of human populations and the large numbers of other herd animals I have my doubts weather mammoth was at the top of the menu or that humans had any real impact on their demise. This is where I'm very skeptical on the findings of the scientific community. In a round about way they always come back to how man screwed up the planet.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JamesD wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

While I'm still chewing on this the words perhaps, possibly and may have sound more like guesses rather than conclusions. Their hypothesis seems to be that humans and climate change killed off these creatures. Where have I heard that before and what about that natural selection dogma they preach as gospel? Notice how humans are implicated in this equation. Just as plausible of an explanation is that the mammoth as well as other mega fauna were just too over specialized and couldn't adapt to rapid changes on the planet. Meanwhile other species of mammals including humans were able to adapt and survived. What I'm getting at is that many of these people set themselves up as experts beyond reproach well to convince me they'd better come up with something better than perhaps, possibly and may have.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

This begs the question-- How tasty was a wolly mamoth ribeye??? I'll bet cooked over a hardwood fire it was absolutly dreamy to paleolithic man and probably got him some paleolithic girlfriends too!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BuckWhistleWorksBest wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

new study?? wow, us homo sapiens are really sharp. A new study has figured out that prehistoric man who ate wooly mammoths contributed to their demise. wow, i gotta head back to academia, maybe I could do a study about the negative effects of overharvesting on passenger pigeons or something like that, you know, one which will have a really earth shattering outcome that will really raise some eyebrows

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 268bull wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Another blurp of horse puckey! Scientist's ( coming from the Huff & Puff post's ) have no more to base this on than speculation other than to take a stab at mankind ( again ), blame that damn concept of hunting as part of the reason that mammoths are now extinct. Do mankind a favor and travel to the African continent, find a distant relative of said poor mammoth ( the elephant ),and offer yourself up as sacrifice. Then maybe the Huff & Puff will have a worthwhile story to print!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Proverbs wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Are they sure it wasn't because of the mammoth's diet and resulting flatulence? (See last month's story about dinosaur farts.)

Anyway, this reminds me of the film 10,000 BC. It was only mildly entertaining, but the hunt scenes were interesting. Near the end of the film, the protagonist relies upon the instincts of an enslaved herd bull mammoth to help his cause.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JamesD wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

So let me get this straight, is the study saying that our ancestors chose to ignore those herds of easier to kill bison and opted for the much harder to kill and maybe more dangerous mammoth? While I have no doubt that early humans hunted mammoths to some extent I think given the small numbers of human populations and the large numbers of other herd animals I have my doubts weather mammoth was at the top of the menu or that humans had any real impact on their demise. This is where I'm very skeptical on the findings of the scientific community. In a round about way they always come back to how man screwed up the planet.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JamesD wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

While I'm still chewing on this the words perhaps, possibly and may have sound more like guesses rather than conclusions. Their hypothesis seems to be that humans and climate change killed off these creatures. Where have I heard that before and what about that natural selection dogma they preach as gospel? Notice how humans are implicated in this equation. Just as plausible of an explanation is that the mammoth as well as other mega fauna were just too over specialized and couldn't adapt to rapid changes on the planet. Meanwhile other species of mammals including humans were able to adapt and survived. What I'm getting at is that many of these people set themselves up as experts beyond reproach well to convince me they'd better come up with something better than perhaps, possibly and may have.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

I suspect human hunters had more to do with their demise than a meteorite. Hunt mammoths? Sign me up!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dasmith wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

I have heard stories of mammoth's being found in current times, frozen in ice and that they were cut up and used for food. Does anyone know if this is true.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blue Ox wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

Mammoth jerky, anyone?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

This begs the question-- How tasty was a wolly mamoth ribeye??? I'll bet cooked over a hardwood fire it was absolutly dreamy to paleolithic man and probably got him some paleolithic girlfriends too!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BuckWhistleWorksBest wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

new study?? wow, us homo sapiens are really sharp. A new study has figured out that prehistoric man who ate wooly mammoths contributed to their demise. wow, i gotta head back to academia, maybe I could do a study about the negative effects of overharvesting on passenger pigeons or something like that, you know, one which will have a really earth shattering outcome that will really raise some eyebrows

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 268bull wrote 1 year 43 weeks ago

Another blurp of horse puckey! Scientist's ( coming from the Huff & Puff post's ) have no more to base this on than speculation other than to take a stab at mankind ( again ), blame that damn concept of hunting as part of the reason that mammoths are now extinct. Do mankind a favor and travel to the African continent, find a distant relative of said poor mammoth ( the elephant ),and offer yourself up as sacrifice. Then maybe the Huff & Puff will have a worthwhile story to print!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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