Abrupt warming events drove Late Pleistocene Holarctic megafaunal turnover

Alan Cooper, Chris Turney, Konrad Hughen, Barry Brook, H McDonald, Corey Bradshaw

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    132 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The mechanisms of Late Pleistocene megafauna extinctions remain fiercely contested, with human impact or climate change cited as principal drivers. We compared ancient DNA and radiocarbon data from 31 detailed time series of regional megafaunal extinctions and replacements over the past 56,000 years with standard and new combined records of Northern Hemisphere climate in the Late Pleistocene. Unexpectedly, rapid climate changes associated with interstadial warming events are strongly associated with the regional replacement or extinction of major genetic clades or species of megafauna. The presence of many cryptic biotic transitions before the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary revealed by ancient DNA confirms the importance of climate change in megafaunal population extinctions and suggests that metapopulation structures necessary to survive such repeated and rapid climatic shifts were susceptible to human impacts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)602-606
    Number of pages5
    JournalScience
    Volume349
    Issue number6248
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2015

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