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Stratum plus. 2013. №1

A. M. Burovsky (Saint Petersburg, Russia), P. V. Putshkov (Kiev, Ukraine)

Pleistocene Megafauna Extinctions and Their Consequences: Human Driven or “Purely Natural” Process?

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Pages: 167-268

Like modern pachyderms, extinct Pleistocene giants (proboscideans, rhinos, giant sloths, diprotodontids, etc.) created rich pasture ecosystems. Giants trod paths through thickets, accelerated the energy flow and the recycling of elements, converted forests to savannahs, dug “wells” in arid regions, trod passes through snow and broke the frozen snow crust in the North. That is why their partial (Africa and Southern Asia) or complete (other continents) elimination by prehistoric humans caused drastic ecosystem changes. These changes along with human hunting and burning activity as well as with some indirect human influences caused the extinctions of many non-gigantic (10—1000 kg) species of megafauna. Hominids were present in the Old World since Pliocene. Their biological and cultural evolution here was slow, and many animals escaped extinction and adapted themselves to the human effects. In Australia and Americas the “first man-megafauna contact” took place only in the midlle or end of the Late Pleistocene, and local animals met the fully-developed humans of our species. Therefore, all the giants were quickly exterminated. Many smaller megafauna species became extinct too either due to the overhunting or due to various secondary ecosystem effects caused by the human-driven giant herbivores elimination. The climate changes were not the prime cause of these extinctions: all the climate-centered theories are inconsistent with the ecological, palaeoecological and other evidence. The same is true for the frequent assertions that primitive people were unable to hunt giant herbivores to the extinction. Humans overhunted the prey-species that were less human-resistant due to their low reproductive rates and/or other reasons. This caused the ecosystem alteration with harmful effects upon some other species and humans themselves.

Keywords: pleistocene, megafauna, extinctions, hunting, landscape transformation

Information about authors:

Andrei Burovsky
(Saint Petersburg, Russia). Doctor of Philosofi cal Sciences. Federal State Unitar Organisation “Geological Expertise”, Bolshaya Gruzinskaya Str., 2, Moscow, 123242, Russia 
E-mail: [email protected]
Pavel Putshkov (Kiev, Ukraine). Candidate of Biological Sciences. Zoology Institute of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Bogdana Khmelnitskogo Str., 15, Kiev, 01601, Ukraine
E-mail: [email protected]

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