Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hom Pal student Tyler Faith published in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences"

J. Tyler Faith (Hominid Paleobiology doctoral candidate) co-wrote an article in the November 23 Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesItalic exploring the mass mammalian extinction of the late Pleistocene. He and Todd Surovell, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wyoming, examined "Synchronous extinction of North America's Pleistocene mammals" explores the mass extinction during the late Pleistocene. Faith and Surovell's findings indicate the mass extinction took place between 13.8 and 11.4 thousand years ago, a geological instant. Furthermore, the findings support the idea that human overkill, comet impact, or other rapid events caused this massive extinction, instead of a slow attrition.

2 comments:

Joseph said...

T Faith you are the Man!!!!

Henry said...

I saw your paper on ScienceDaily.com, and I was really impressed. I remember you concluded by saying that the mass extinction took place over a very short interval of time, and that it could have been a combination of human entry (and overkill), abrupt climate change, and/or comet impact.

I wanted to make an observation related to the entry of human beings at that time, which is as follows:

First, there have been artifacts found that predate the 13,600 years ago to 11,400 years ago date by thousands of years - that conclusively demonstrate that humans have occupied the American continents for at least 15,000 years, and probably much more.

I suggest that it should be considered equally likely that human beings present in the location would have also been substantially reduced in population size, if not outright eliminated (after all, don't we count as "large mammals" as well?)

The fact that human beings have been known to be present in the archaeological record shortly after that time does not necessarily imply that human presence (through habitat disruption or overkill) was a factor in worsening the extinction or sending it past the point of no return...

I argue that it is, on the other hand, very likely that these humans that were present at around that time or immediately afterward were actually colonizing a land that was destroyed - and in a way, represented a "founder" population. I also suggest that the enormous hordes of buffalo that were in the American plains at that time suggest that all of the other megafauna being wiped out allowed one large mammal species (the buffalo) to survive and essentially become a keystone species. Clearly, the enormous buffalo herds would also enable recolonizing humans to find an ample food source.

Just some thoughts,
:)