Home Science Study holds climate change responsible for major Ice Age extinctions

Study holds climate change responsible for major Ice Age extinctions


Sudden warming, which is significantly similar to the rapid manmade climate change the planet experiences nowadays, is the main factor responsible for the extinction of mammoths and several other such prehistoric species during the ice age. This has been revealed by a study published in the journal Science.

The said study was conducted by an international team of researchers. The team analyzed radiocarbon dating records, ancient DNA and several other such geological data to come to the conclusion that short, but rapid warming events called interstadials taking place during Pleistocene or the last ice age (around 60,000 to 120,000 years back) resulted in major extinctions. The mentioned time-frame shows that the animals got extinct even before the humans arrived.

The researchers informed that in contrast, extremely cold periods like the last glacial maximum, don’t seem to correspond with such extinctions.

Prof. Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide, who happens to be the study’s lead author, said that the sudden warming had a strong impact on our planet’s climate, which eventually resulted in significant changes in global vegetation patterns and rainfall. Prof. Cooper is the current director of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA.


Cooper added that these mass extinctions took place even without human presence. He continued by saying that if we consider the additional pressure of human presence and fragmenting of environment due to global warming, the future of our planet appears pretty dim.

Ten years back, researchers detected a particular pattern in ancient DNA, which indicated that large prehistoric species disappeared rapidly from this planet. Initially, the researchers thought that intense cold was responsible for the extinctions.


However, as time passed, and the researchers got access to more fossil DNA from different museum specimen collections, they came to know that the extinctions actually occurred due to rapid warming. The research was also aided by more advanced temperature and carbon dating records.

One of the study authors Prof. Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales added that it’s essential to understand that humans still had an extremely important role to play in these extinction events.

Abrupt shifts in climate initiated the extinctions. However, the final death blow, according to Turney, came from the humans. To be more precise, the humans destroyed lives that were already heavily stressed.

SOURCEScience Mag
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