Synergistic roles of climate warming and human occupation in Patagonian megafaunal extinctions during the Last Deglaciation

Jessica Metcalf, Chris Turney, Ross Barnett, Fabiana Martin, Sarah Bray, Julia Vilstrup, Ludovic Orlando, Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi, Daniel Loponte, Matias Medina, Mariana De Nigris, Teresa Civalero, Pablo Fernández, Alejandra Gasco, Victor Durand, Kevin Seymour, Clara Otaola, Adolfo Gil, Rafael Paunero, Francisco PrevostiCorey Bradshaw, Jane Wheeler, Luis Borrero, Jeremy Austin, Alan Cooper

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    107 Citations (Scopus)


    The causes of Late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions (60, 000 to 11, 650 years ago, hereafter 60 to 11.65 ka) remain contentious, with major phases coinciding with both human arrival and climate change around the world. The Americas provide a unique opportunity to disentangle these factors as human colonization took place over a narrow timeframe (∼15 to 14.6 ka) but during contrasting temperature trends across each continent. Unfortunately, limited data sets in South America have so far precluded detailed comparison. We analyze genetic and radiocarbon data from 89 and 71 Patagonian megafaunal bones, respectively, more than doubling the high-quality Pleistocene megafaunal radiocarbon data sets from the region.Weidentify anarrowmegafaunal extinction phase 12, 280 ± 110 years ago, some 1 to 3 thousand years after initial human presence in the area. Although humans arrived immediately prior to a cold phase, the Antarctic Cold Reversal stadial, megafaunal extinctions did not occur until the stadial finished and the subsequent warming phase commenced some 1 to 3 thousand years later. The increased resolution provided by the Patagonianmaterial reveals that the sequence of climate andextinctionevents inNorthandSouth America were temporally inverted, but in both cases, megafaunal extinctions did not occur until human presence and climate warming coincided. Overall, metapopulation processes involving subpopulation connectivity on a continental scale appear to have been critical for megafaunal species survival of both climate change and human impacts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere1501682
    Number of pages8
    JournalScience Advances
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


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