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…