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By Kira Westaway, Affiliate Professor, School 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 may be blamed for a lot of issues: slicing down tropical forests, worsening local weather change, and driving valuable species just like the Tasmanian tiger to extinction. However can we add searching and consuming woolly mammoths and dinosaurs to the record?
Properly, we will safely assume that dinosaurs by no means fell prey to people, primarily as a result of the 2 by no means met (regardless of what the Jurassic Park motion pictures recommend). Dinosaurs had already been extinct for about 62 million years when trendy people started to roam the planet!
However what about woolly mammoths? On this case, the Ice Age film was appropriate. People and woolly mammoths lived collectively for at the very least 15,000 years.
Big finds within the fossil file
So did people hunt woolly mammoths to extinction? To reply this query, we should search for clues within the fossil file, which is made up of the preserved stays of historic life.
Within the case of the dodo, a big flightless fowl that turned extinct, paperwork from 1690 make it clear that overhunting by people was the trigger.
However woolly mammoths had been round lengthy earlier than we had writing paper. They existed from round 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 mammoths survived on a small, remoted island within the Arctic till about 4,000 years in the past. However the full-size species disappeared from an space referred to as Beringia (positioned between Siberia and Alaska) about 12,000 years in the past, after residing alongside people for at the very least 15,000 years.
Did the people kill them?
When early people hunted, they tended to kill many animals on the identical time. This created “killing locations”, which are actually enormous piles of animal bones. And after they took the meat off the bones to eat, they used stone instruments that created minimize marks or small indentations within the bones.
These marks now present very important clues. In Beringia, there’s fossil proof of mammoth kill websites and minimize marks on mammoth bones, so all clues level to people searching woolly mammoths.
However the strongest proof was present in southern Poland in 2019. A small a part of a stone device, became a spear blade by a human, was discovered within the rib of a woolly mammoth. If this had been proof introduced in a homicide trial, that human can be instantly locked up!
Nonetheless, does that imply people had been solely liable for wiping out all full-size woolly mammoths?
Some scientists recommend that the climate additionally performed a job.
It could possibly be that the weather conditions on the time moved away from what the woolly mammoths most well-liked and triggered an enormous drop of their numbers.
This may occasionally have made the remaining mammoths extra weak to elevated searching because the human inhabitants grew.
Australia’s personal ‘mammoths’
Australia had no woolly mammoths. They’d have gotten extremely popular in these thick coats! However we did have big animals generally known as megafauna, which turned extinct between 5,000 and 17,000 years (relying on the species) after the arrival of the First Peoples.
Curiously, we discovered no dependable fossil proof that these individuals hunted Australia’s historic megafauna. There are not any recognized kill websites, no minimize marks on the animal bones, and no proof of spear blades lodged within the ribs.
Was the disappearance of the megafauna associated to human exercise? Or did local weather change additionally play a job right here?
The jury continues to be out on this one! However the extra fossils we discover and the higher we examine them, the nearer we get to understanding what occurred all these years in the past.
Curious youngsters: might dinosaurs exist once more?
Kira Westaway receives funding from the Australian Analysis Council
Initially posted on The Dialog.
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