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Bursting the myth that human ancestors caused the extinction of large mammals and other such species, a study reveals that environmental changes were responsible for their demise

Africa today does not have more than five large mammal species. However, this was not always the case. A recent research study published (in the Science journal) in November has changed the way anthropologists and paleontologists view African extinction. According to this study, the extinction of large mammals from the Earth’s ecosystem can be attributed to persistent changes in environmental conditions. Scientists have believed till now that interference by tool-bearing and meat-consuming human ancestors to be the cause of the annihilation of Africa’s large mammal species, such as the ancient woolly mammoth. Recent findings reject this hypothesis, suggesting that grassland expansion due to the decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to be the main cause of their demise.

The research team that carried out the study was led by the curator of archaeology at the Natural History Museum of Utah and Assistant Professor at the University of Utah, Tyler Faith. The team also comprised John Rowan from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Andrew Du from the University of Chicago, and Paul Koch from the University of California. Their study analyzed East African megaherbivores – that is, species of herbivores weighing over 2000lbs or around 1000kgs.