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Essay on The Extinction of Pleistocene Mammals

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During the late Pleistocene, a mystery occurred in which large mammals went extinct in North America while they survived in other parts of the world. Scientists studying the late Pleistocene extinction provided a plethora of explanations, including overkill by humans, extraterrestrial events, and climate changes (Faith and Surovell, 2009). However, there was no unified explanation that they all agreed upon. Taking note of this, J. Tyler Faith and Todd A. Surovell conducted tests to discover whether the extinction was a single event or a long-term process. Their findings were important to other scientists in the same field, as they served as a guideline for their explanations of catalysts of the extinction.
Scientists in this field have primarily focused on the potential causes for this occurrence. The first is the overkill hypothesis. In 2002, Grayson and Meltzer revisited Paul Martin’s hypothesis of the late Pleistocene extinction, which was developed 40 years ago. The hypothesis states that the extinction of late Pleistocene animals is the result of human overkill; Grayson and Meltzer criticize this hypothesis because Martin used evidence specific to New Zealand, in which humans hunted mammals to extinction 900 years ago. Although they did not rule out human overkill for the Pleistocene extinctions, they surmised that other events might have contributed to the extinction (Grayson and Meltzer, 2003). Other scientists such as Alroy have contested this contradiction. Alroy used a computer simulation to compare the changing size of the population of humans and the changing size of the herbivore population during the end of the Pleistocene to support the overkill hypothesis (Alroy, 2001). Meanwhile, Haynes used “black mats”, or or...


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...es 1675-1680, ISSN 0277-3791, 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.03.011.

Grayson, Donald K. and Meltzer, David J. A requiem for North American overkill,
Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 30, Issue 5, May 2003, Pages 585-593, ISSN 0305-4403, 10.1016/S0305-4403(02)00205-4.

Haynes, C.V. Jr. Younger Dryas “black mats” and the Rancholabrean termination in
North America Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2008 105 (18) 6520-6525


Kennett, D. J.; Kennett, J. P.; West, A; Mercer, C.; Hee, S. S. Que; Bement, L.;
Bunch, T. E.; Sellers, M.; Wolbach, W. S. “Nanodiamonds in the Younger Dryas Boundary Sediment Layer” Science 2 January 2009: 323 (5910), 94.

Long, C. A. and Yahnke, C. J. “End the of Pleistocene: elk-moose (Cervalces) and
caribou (Rangifer) in Wisconsin.” Journal of Mammalogy 92(5):1127-1135. 2011


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