Modern humans vs. giant animals: Mega-herbivores were displaced by humans who partly took their place

ScienceDaily | 1/30/2018 | Staff
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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."

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.

Elephants - Mega-herbivores - 'ecosystem - Tree - Cover

"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.

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 across northern Eurasia, North and South America and Australia, and the giant herbivores gradually became extinct," adds Bocherens.

Revolution - Rise - Agriculture - Animal - Husbandry

With the "Neolithic revolution," the rise of agriculture and animal husbandry, the keeping of stores and a sessile lifestyle, the functions of the extinct...
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