Why mammoths, moas and Maltese elephants disappeared

Most of the world’s giant land mammals vanished tens of thousands of years ago. Why? Because our Stone Age ancestors killed them on a gigantic scale

July 12, 2023

Megafauna illustration in black and white
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Many thanks for a fine essay on the extinction of the megafauna.  I think the argument you build up—that humans killed them off—is watertight, even though not much evidence has yet been marshalled showing the very ‘killing fields’.  I think that such evidence will turn up in time.  Thank you for bringing out the sole existent illustration of the Great Auk, which I had never seen before.

A possible cause of the extinction that you did not mention was that some of the great cats showed serious bone malformations.  An article in “The Economist” last week reported that about 7% of one of the great cats had life-threatening bone malformations, and suggested that this genetic disorder may have contributed to the cat’s extinction.  Yet I think this research is good as far as it goes, but provides little insight about extinction; it begs the question of what caused the genetic disorder, and whether it was caused by loss of population and consequent inbreeding, both stemming from loss of habitat which might, of course, have been caused by our ancestors who set fire to woodlands so as to make grasslands.

Many thanks!

Peter_G_Moll - 2023 07 23

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