Friday, April 27, 2012
Homo Erectus Caused Large Carnivore Extinction
John Hawks calls attention to a recent paper making a strong circumstantial case that the rise of Homo Erectus lead to the extinction of all but six of the twenty-nine large carnivore species that were around before Homo Erectus arrived on the scene. Carnivore species extant were evalutated at 1.5 million and 3.5 million years ago. Homo Erectus arose between those dates and left Africa around 1.9 million years ago. This is mostly a good thing, because while the megafauna extinctions associated with modern humans are well documented, one of the big open questions in pre-history and evolution is why this happened in some places but not others and why it might not have happened for previous hominin species. This study suggests that it did happen for previous hominin species and that places that experienced milder megafauna extinctions may have had that experience because Homo Erectus had already wiped out the most vulnerable species.