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article imageNew Evidence Suggests Giant Mammoths Not Killed By Man, But Moose and Climate Change

By Digital Journal Staff     May 11, 2006 in Science
For as long as science has studied woolly mammoths, it was believed humans led the furry giants to extinction. However, new evidence found in the Yukon suggests that is not the case.
In fact, it looks as though moose and weather were to blame. Dale Guthrie, a researcher at the University of Alaska, says he found evidence that the climate in the area was warming up, and grasslands were evolving into forests and tundra.
Some 13,000 to 10,000 years ago, when human first came to North America from Asia, moose also arrived. The animals were better adapted to digest the low-nutrient grass and wood-like plants that were taking over.
Scientists say fossils suggest moose and other animals probably competed with the mammoths for food, and the mammoth lost out.
Guthrie, reporting findings in the journal Nature, says mammoths and even American horses were not able to find adequate food in the forest, driving both species to extinction. Today’s domestic and wild horses are offspring of animals brought over by Europeans in the 16th century. In addition to mammoths and horses, scientists believe weather changes and new animals also led to the extinctions of sabre-toothed cats, mastodons, giant sloths and a list of other animals.
For decades, scientists believed early man simply over-killed the giant mammoths. But even with this new evidence, there is still some hesitation to adopt new theories: “I don't think we've reached consensus, but most of us think there were a combination of factors,” University of Nevada at Reno archaeologist, Gary Haynes, told the Washington Post. “Most scientists believe in overkill, but if you ask archaeologists, they would say climate change,” because there is very little evidence that humans were killing mammoths and horses in large numbers.
Guthrie’s studies indicate horses died first (about 12,500 years ago) and mammoths remained in North America for another thousand years. Moose, a bark-eating animal, appeared unaffected by climate change, while elk and bison dwindled dramatically, barely surviving.
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