The dodo is found as food for humans. The bird was fat and unable to fly and therefore easy prey. Dodos were roasted on a spit in such large numbers that the native animals of Mauritius became extinct by the end of the 17th century. In the case of the Madagascar elephant bird, people also ate eggs with them. And the shy Tasmanian tiger was in fact considered a ferocious predator of livestock, and thus it was hunted until it no longer existed. Surely the human predator exterminated these and many other animals. So the suspicion was clear that Homo sapiens was also responsible for the disappearance of the mammoth about 4,000 years ago. Especially since the fossil finds show that people of that time regularly ate mammoth meat, built shelter from animal bones and made weapons from their tusks.
Apparently, in this case, a person cannot be blamed even once. Scientists working with Eske Willerslev, who conducts research at the University of Cambridge and the University of Copenhagen, have now demonstrated this in an extensive study.
When the Ice Age ended and the climate intensified, the animals could no longer find enough food
According to the studythat just appeared in science magazine temper nature Published, it wasn’t Homo sapiens that made the mammoth disappear forever, contrary to what was supposed, but climate change at the end of the last Ice Age. “Humans have been accused because animals have survived for millions of years without being affected by changes in climate,” Willerslev says. Only when man appeared did they begin to descend.
The results of his study showed, however, that the megafauna simply did not find enough food. The warming of the climate has led to the disappearance of the vast steppe landscapes in which the mammoths graze. In their place, forests and wetlands were created, which the animals could not cope with – unlike the thick layers of snow that they simply swept away with their fangs in order to reach their food.
“We were able to show that the main problem was the speed of climate change,” Willerslev says. Mammoths weren’t able to adapt quickly enough when the landscape was changing rapidly and their food was scarce.
Scientists have found all this with the help of a relatively new method in which the genetic makeup of not only individual species, but also entire communities are analyzed. For this purpose, soil samples are taken that contain plant and animal remains such as urine, feces or skin cells. The genetic material of long-extinct organisms, found in these remains as well as in fossil bones, can be extracted from the samples and analyzed.
For their gigantic study, the scientists examined 535 samples from the Arctic regions where mammoth fossils had previously been found. They came from different layers of permafrost and from water deposits, and according to the researchers, they cover a period of 50,000 years.
Based on the genetic material contained in it, scientists were able to understand, among other things, how the vegetation changed over time, and at the same time, the number of mammoths continued to decline. Until the animals completely disappeared from the surface of the earth.
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