Mega-herbivores were displaced by humans who partly took their place

phys.org | 1/30/2018 | Staff
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Senckenberg scientist Hervé Bocherens has studied the extinction of mega-herbivores – plant-eating animals that weighed more than one ton – that occurred approx. 12,000 years ago. The scientist from Tübingen reached the conclusion that, on the one hand, modern man was the cause of these giant terrestrial animals' extinction, and on the other hand, humans took over part of the animals' ecosystem functions. In his study, recently published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, he concludes that the reintroduction of large animals in certain parts of the world could have a positive effect in regard to species diversity.

Today, there are only few animals that weigh in at a ton or more. Elephants, hippopotamuses and rhinoceroses are among these "mega-herbivores," and despite their large size, their populations are endangered. "Under geological aspects, the small number of so few large animal species presents an anomaly," explains Professor Dr. Hervé Bocherens of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen, and he continues, "The most prominent example of prehistoric giants is, of course, the dinosaurs."

History - Animals - Sloths - Mammoths - Biogeologist

But the more recent geological history also included colossal animals such as the giant sloths, woolly rhinoceroses, and mammoths. The biogeologist from Tübingen now examined the reasons for these animals' extinction around 12,000 years ago and its consequences for the environment.

"Like modern-day elephants, these mega-herbivores acted as 'ecosystem engineers.' They reduced the tree cover and kept open the landscape and the watering holes that are of vital importance for many animals. Plant seeds were transported over many kilometers in the animals' digestive tract, thus aiding in their distribution," explains Bocherens.

Study - Tasks - Part - Humans - Period

In his recent study, he shows that these tasks were taken over in part by modern humans in the period between 45,000 and 12,000 years ago. "During this epoch, modern man spread...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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