Researchers have been trying to find out what happened to the wooly mammoth and other big prehistoric animals of the last Ice Age, such as short-faced bears and cave lions. Although scientists theorize on the factors behind the disappearance of such great animals, no one really had any scientific proof to sustain their presumptions. But according to a recent study, climate change is probably what led to the extinction of these ancient animals approximately 11,000 years ago.
The researchers who conducted the study found that the abrupt changes of temperatures which took place in the Late Pleistocene period could be responsible for the disappearance of these large species of mammals.
The researchers wrote about their findings in the journal Science.
In order to reach this conclusion, the scientists compared the data regarding the extinction of the Ice Age animals with data from major climate change events and found that there is a connection between these warming events and the extinction of the large mammals.
Alan Cooper, a researcher at the University of Adelaide in Australia, and one of the lead authors of the study, explained that they were able to combine the two records and find an association between the animal fossils and climate change. By analyzing these data the researchers found a strong connection between the fauna extinction of the Ice Age and the extreme warming events.
According to the experts, these events are called interstadials, or a short period when the climate got warmer. These climate events occurred during the Ice Age when the temperatures went from 4 degrees to 16 degrees Celsius in just a matter of decades. However, once the temperatures got warmer they remained like this for thousands of years.
The researchers believe the fauna of that period found it very hard to live in the warmer climate because it affected the prey and their environment. Cooper said these periods of climatic changes led to modifications in rainfall as well as changes in vegetation patterns.
According to the scientists, ancient humans were also responsible for the extinction of the Ice Age animals, but they didn’t play such a big role in it. The researchers believe that human societies and hunting parties disrupted the animals’ environment and made it difficult for them to migrate to new areas and populate them.
Chris Turney, professor at the University of New South Wales, said that man played an important role in the disappearance of these species, not just climate change.
Image Source: care2