Comprehensive coverage

Solving an ancient mystery: paleontologists shed new light on the causes of the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros

Advanced computer models estimate that continued hunting by humans contributed to the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros by preventing their migration to new habitats during post-Ice Age warming, highlighting the ongoing impact of human activity on large animal species

Woolly rhinos were once common throughout northern and central Eurasia, before becoming extinct about 10,000 years ago. Credit: Mauricio Anton
Woolly rhinos were once common throughout northern and central Eurasia, before becoming extinct about 10,000 years ago. Credit: Mauricio Anton 

Advanced computer models estimate that continued hunting by humans contributed to the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros by preventing their migration to new habitats during post-Ice Age warming, highlighting the ongoing impact of human activity on large animal species.

The researchers believe that continued hunting by humans limited the woolly rhinoceros from reaching more suitable habitats as the planet warmed after the last ice age.

An international team of researchers, led by scientists from the University of Adelaide and the University of Copenhagen, used a computer model to try and shed light on the ancient mystery.

"Using computer models, fossils and ancient DNA, we have traced the population history of the woolly rhinoceros in Eurasia for 52,000 years at a resolution not previously thought possible." said lead author Associate Professor Damian Fordham, from the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute. "It showed that 30,000 years ago, a combination of falling temperatures and little but persistent hunting by humans caused the woolly rhinoceros' range to shrink southward, trapping it in a few isolated habitats whose numbers were rapidly declining at the end of the last ice age. As the Earth thawed and temperatures rose, woolly rhinoceros populations were unable to spread into new habitats in northern Eurasia, causing instability and collapse, leading to their extinction."

Contradictory findings and human influence

The woolly rhinoceros, a representative species of large animals, had thick skin and long fur, and it roamed in the same areas where the marmots of northern and central Eurasia roamed, before becoming extinct about 10,000 years ago.

This explanation, published in PNAS, contradicts previous studies that found that humans had no effect on the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros - even though it lived alongside humans for tens of thousands of years before its extinction.

"The demographic fluctuations revealed by our analysis were at a much higher resolution than those taken into account in previous genetic studies," said Professor Elin Lorenzen, from the University of Copenhagen's Globe Institute. "This allowed us to identify important interactions that woolly rhinos had with humans and document how these changed in space and time. One of the interactions that was not given enough consideration was hunting at a low but regular rate by humans, presumably for food."

Humans pose a similar environmental threat today. Populations of large animals are pushed into fragmented and suboptimal habitats due to overhunting and land use by humans.

During the Late Pleistocene, 61 species of large terrestrial herbivores, weighing more than a ton, lived, and only eight of them exist today. Five of the surviving species are rhinoceros.

"Our explanations reveal how climate change and human activity can lead to the extinction of large animals." said Professor David Noggs-Bravo, of the University of Copenhagen, who was a co-author of this study. "This understanding is essential for developing conservation strategies to protect species that are currently at risk, such as vulnerable rhinos in Africa and Asia. By studying past extinctions, we can draw important lessons for future conservation of the remaining large animals on Earth."

3 תגובות

  1. From a practical point of view, the explanation is much simpler, nature exterminates large species! Simple fact, see how after a so-called natural disaster, the ones left are always the small and tiny ones that don't go extinct.

  2. It is sad that one of the most significant factors in killing rhinos is none other than elephants. Maybe they understand that it is a competition for the food. They kill rhinos just for the sake of killing. Especially during the period when the female elephants are engorged and the male elephants enter a period called mast. and become especially nervous. And rhinos are simply crushed to death. And not a few cases of buffaloes also being killed by elephants. They are a little more agile and can dodge, but you won't hunt, it works for them. The rhinoceros fight back and here too they condemned their situation to certain death by torture. The elephants simply crush them until they lose breath and die. or fractures of the ribs and spine.

  3. For some reason many good people continue to err because there is a difference between
    An era that is much longer than a period,
    When writing "……. During the post-ice age warming……'
    This is a mistake because the earth entered an ice age about 50 million years ago
    When Antarctica settled on the South Pole and closed in the North
    The continents of Europe, Asia and America on the North Pole
    A situation that prevented flows and temperature exchanges between the oceans and the poles
    and caused cooling and entry into an ice age,
    Because of changes in the movement of the earth around the sun and on its axis
    In the Milankiewicz cycle there are less cold or hot periods,
    Therefore the correct reference is a period and not an era...
    It is appropriate that everyone who deals with the issue speak correctly...

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.