Pleistocene Extinction and Human

Human hunting as the cause of Pleistocene mammal extinction which includes an estimated number of 35 genera of North American mammals like mammoth, bison and giant ground sloth was popularized by Paul Martin and it has received both positive and negative comments both from anthropologists, archaelogists and paleontologists. Martins hypothesis provides four major premise (1) archaeological and paleontological research shows that human colonization of islands was followed by massive vertebrate extinctions. (2) Clovis inhabitants represents the first people to have hunted large-mammals as supported by several sites containing remains of mammoths which shows that man indeed hunted them. (3) Clovis people preyed on a diverse variety of now-extinct mammals and (4)  North American mammal extinction happened near 11,000 radiocarbon years ago which is the same date of arrival of the Clovis in the region.  (Grayson and Meltzer 2003 586)
According to the study of Faith and Surovell, extinction occurred synchronously between 12,000 and 10,000 radiocarbon years B.P. which indeed encompasses the earliest secure evidence of human foragers, but this also include the Younger Dryas cold interval and a possible extraterrestrial impact. ( 2009 20644). It meant that to singly attribute the cause of extinction of these mammals to human hunting is inappropriate. It is safer to say according to them, that the massive terminal Pleistocene losses are the direct result of the fortuitious intersection of the following events human hunting, Younger Dryas cold interval and a possible extraterrestrial impact. (Faith and Surovell 2009, 20644)
Grayson and Meltzer shares a similar response regarding this matter. In their criticisms of Martin, they suggested that hunting alone did not produce extinction but the manifold impact of human colonization. In New Zealand, people not only hunted moas but set fires which quickly destroyed massive expanses of forests which eventually introduced competitors and predators in the form of rats and dogs. The fact that island faunas, like the moas have small population and very vulnerable to attacks from unwanted predators may have produced island extinction. (Grayson and Metzer 2003 587) Looking closely at the series of events, it is not by hunting alone which caused the extinction of island species but the practices used by the early inhabitants which triggered the imbalance in nature. Increased number of predators in the island lessens the possibility of survival of the weaker species. Furthermore, Martin claims that the Clovis hunted diverse specie of mammals but only mammoths and mastodon sites were recovered and none for camels and horses.

Apparently Martins claims rested on mere speculation and not on tangible data. In his defense, Martin claims that the bones of some mammals are fragile thus no remnants of it can be found which can be studied. On the contrary, human hunting had nothing to do with the Eurasian losses like reindeer and giant deer since there were no humans in the region. It can never be the case then that the biological needs of these hunters lead to the extinction of these mammals.
Supporters of Martin like Ward and Jared Diamond relates overkill to present day conditions. They point their fingers to hunters for the extinction of snake rivers, king crabs and great shell fish fisheries but failed to distinctively provide relative scientific data to support Martins hypothesis. They are suggesting that humans played primarily role in the extinctions of these species because of massive and continuous hunting but present conditions and pre-historic conditions are far different from one another. Techonology revolutionized how man ruled over all of creation which was not present during the time of the Clovis. Moreover, they were dealing with gigantic and violent animals which are not easily stopped by wooden spears or sharpened stones. One may think then supporters of Martin have a different agenda in supporting his claim rather than wanting to arrive at the truth which happened thousands of years ago.  Man may have played a part in their extinction but we do not have the power and appropriate tool to ultimately become the major cause of their extinction.


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