By Kira Westaway, Affiliate Professor, Faculty of Pure Sciences, Macquarie College
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Did people hunt and eat woolly mammoths or dinosaurs? – Jasmine, age 10, Central Coast NSW
Thanks for this nice query!
People will be blamed for lots of issues: chopping down rainforests, worsening local weather change, and driving treasured species just like the Tasmanian Tiger to extinction. However can we add looking and consuming woolly mammoths and dinosaurs to the listing?
Properly, we are able to safely assume dinosaurs by no means fell prey to people – primarily as a result of the 2 by no means even met (regardless of what the Jurassic Park movies recommend). Dinosaurs had already been extinct for about 62 million years by the point trendy people began roaming the planet!
Mammoth findings within the fossil report
So did people hunt woolly mammoths to extinction? To reply this query we should take a look at clues within the fossil report, which is made up of the preserved stays of historical life.
Within the case of the dodo, a big flightless chicken that went extinct, paperwork from 1690 make it clear that over-hunting by people was the trigger.
However woolly mammoths have been round lengthy earlier than we had paper to put in writing on. They existed from about 300,000 years in the past – a time when ice lined the northern elements of the world.
As for after they went extinct, a small variety of dwarf mammmoths survived on a little bit remoted island within the Arctic till about 4,000 years in the past. However the full-sized species disappeared from an space known as Beringia (situated between Siberia and Alaska) some 12,000 years in the past – after residing alongside people for at the very least 15,000 years.
Did people kill them off?
Trying to find clues
When early people hunted, they tended to kill many animals on the identical time. This created “kill websites”, which are actually large piles of animal bones. And after they pulled the meat off the bones to eat, they used stone instruments that created reduce marks or small notches within the bones.
These marks now present important clues. In Beringia, there may be fossil proof for mammoth kill websites, and reduce marks on mammoth bones – so all of the clues level to people having hunted woolly mammoths.
However the strongest proof was discovered in southern Poland in 2019. A small a part of a stone software, made right into a spear blade by a human, was discovered within the rib bone of a woolly mammoth. If this was proof offered in a homicide trial, that human can be locked up right away!
Even so, does that imply people alone have been accountable for wiping out all of the full-sized woolly mammoths?
Some scientists recommend the local weather additionally performed a task.
It might be that local weather circumstances on the time shifted away from what woolly mammoths most popular and triggered a big drop of their numbers.
This may increasingly have made the remaining mammoths extra weak to rising looking because the human inhabitants grew.
Australia’s personal ‘mammoths’
Australia didn’t have woolly mammoths. They’d have gotten very popular in these thick coats! However we did have large animals generally known as megafauna, which went extinct between 5,000 and 17,000 years (relying on the species) after the First Peoples arrived.
Curiously, we don’t discover any dependable fossil proof of those individuals looking Australia’s historical megafauna. There aren’t any recognized kill websites, no reduce marks on the animal bones, and no proof of spear blades being lodged in ribs.
Was the megafauna’s disappearance associated to human exercise? Or did local weather change play a component right here as properly?
The jury continues to be out on this one! However the extra fossils we discover, and the higher we get at learning them, the nearer we’ll come to understanding what occurred all these years in the past.
Kira Westaway receives funding from the Australian Analysis Council
Initially printed in The Dialog.