Author Topic: Humans wiped out megafauna in the Palaeolithic era  (Read 2187 times)

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Offline TylerDurden

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Offline HIT_it_RAW

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Re: Humans wiped out megafauna in the Palaeolithic era
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2012, 09:50:43 pm »
very interesting. They only studied 2 core samples so i don't think its very definitive.
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Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Humans wiped out megafauna in the Palaeolithic era
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2012, 03:18:51 am »
Thanks for sharing that link, Tyler. I've posted before on the broader topic of the overkill hypothesis for extinctions in mutliple regions. I thought I had included stuff from Baz Edmeades and Paul Martin, but couldn't find it, so I'm posting it here for those interested, along with some excerpts of past posts:

MEGAFAUNA — First Victims of the Human-Caused Extinction
By Baz Edmeades
Foreword by Paul S. Martin, author of Twilight of the Mammoths and originator of the overkill hypothesis

Quaternary extinction event - Overkill Hypothesis

What happened to the extinct African megafauna?
What happened to the extinct African megafauna?

... Around 500k yrs BP, the giant hyenas and giant cats declined in numbers, creating a boom in megafauna on the fertile Eurasian steppes along the edges of the glaciers. Hominids, including ancestors of homo sapiens, filled the void that those great predators left behind, scavenging and hunting for brains, marrow, meat and other organs. Over time, their hunting skills increased greatly, to the point where they rarely had to scavenge any more. They became the most skilled hunters in the history of the planet, killing vast numbers of prime-age (reproductively fertile years) mammoths, aurochs, bison, reindeer, stags, etc. to the point where they [probably] eventually drove some megafauna species to extinction (likely in combination with climate change and other factors). ...

... The bones of prey animals are another form of dietary evidence. There are plenty of such sites in continental Europe that reveal large accumulations of the butchered bones of prey animals that homo sapiens, Neanderthals and other hominids ate. Clive Gamble's book The Paleolithic Societies of Europe lists Stone Age dig sites in Europe that's over three pages long. So strong is the evidence for carnivory (fauna-based diets that also include some plants) that Gamble terms the European hominid cultures in the Middle Paleolithic period from around 300,000 to 30,000 years before the present "the carnivore guild."
If the overkill hypothesis has any significant merit to it, then one of the interesting implications is what it says about ancient human behavior and diet. Sometimes critics of high fat diets portray ancient humans as being very frugal and/or environmentally or spiritually conscious in their meat-eating habits, suggesting that they used every part of the animal in nearly every case and thus kept fat intake down (though even the whole-carcass ratios of ancient megafauna are believed by some to have been relatively high in fat, with the trimming of fat by today's markets and avoidance of brains and marrow apparently skewing to some degree the modern conceptions of how much fat is in wild animal carcasses). If the overkill hypothesis is correct, then this calls into question these views. It provides a less idealistic picture of Stone Age humans. Quite an antidote to William's utopian notions about our ancestors (and as I recall, he strongly disagreed with the overkill hypothesis when I brought it up, in large part for this reason).

On another related note, at the time I wrote the stuff above I was leaning toward the term "facultative carnivore" as the most relevant descriptor for human physiology and ancestral diets, but since then I've shifted toward omnivore/adaptivore. I figured that the growing evidence of longtime root, tuber, legume, fungi, nut and seed consumption by human/hominin ancestors makes "facultative carnivore" a less applicable label for humans than "omnivore" or my own "adaptivore" term, but recently being reminded that maned wolves eat wild tubers and realizing that the maned wolf diet is rather similar to what is believed were the Stone Age diets of humans raised the question again. Tubers and roots more than any other foods seem to be what distinguishes omnivores (maned wolves, pigs, brown bears, chimps, ...) from facultative carnivores (grey wolves, coyotes, lorids, ...), based on the way scientists tend to classify these animals. Even an animal classed as an obligate carnivore, the polar bear, eats berries (,

Some classify maned wolves as facultative carnivores (MANED WOLF NUTRITIONAL MANAGEMENT,, their taxonomy is carnivorous and they share a wolf-like ancestor with grey wolves (Maned wolf Chrysocyon brachyurus, The Canid Specialist Group (CSG) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN),, so there's still a plausible argument for that term regarding humans, though it doesn't fit well with the traditional human populations that get 90% or more of their calories from carby plants like tubers, most classify maned wolves as omnivores, and there's more plant eating among primate species than canids.

The difference between omnivore and facultative carnivore may not be that important, since "there is no clearly defined ratio of plant to animal material that would distinguish a facultative carnivore from an omnivore, or an omnivore from a facultative herbivore, for that matter." (Wikipedia, citing Mammals: Omnivores. Duane E. Ullrey. Encyclopedia of Animal Science). Overall, I'm still leaning to omnivory/adaptivory as more descriptive of natural human diets and physiology than facultative carnivory, but it seems to be more of a difference of shadings than discrete differences.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2012, 09:11:45 am by PaleoPhil »
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