Pity the wooly mammoth. Scientists have had raging arguments for decades whether this majestic creature was driven to extinction by an earlier wave of global warming, or whether humans slaughtered the beast into oblivion a’la the American bison.
Turns out it was both.
A team of Spanish researchers have analyzed periodic climate changes going back 126,000 years and determined that global warming steadily diminished the near-Arctic climate in which the wooly mammoth thrived. By about 4000 BC, the wooly mammoth population was decimated by the warmth and the survivors had retreated to the colder regions of the Siberian tundra.
And that’s when human hunters moved in. Researchers estimated that each of the region’s hunters needed to kill one wooly mammoth every three years to make the species extinct.
“Our analysis suggests that the humans applied the coup de grace and that the size of the suitable climatic area available in the in the mid-Holocene was too small to host populations able to withstand increased human hunting pressure,” the researchers stated in the journal PLoS Biology.