Evol Ecol Res 6: 339-358 (2004)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Of mice, mastodons and men: human-mediated extinctions on four continents

S. Kathleen Lyons,* Felisa A. Smith and James H. Brown

Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA

Address all correspondence to S. Kathleen Lyons, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA.
e-mail: lyons@nceas.ucsb.edu


Numerous anthropological and ecological hypotheses have been proposed to explain the extinction of many large-bodied mammals at the terminal Pleistocene. We find that body size distributions of all mammals in North America, South America, Africa and Australia before and after the late Pleistocene show a similar large-size selectivity of extinctions across continents, despite differences in timing. All extinctions coincide with the colonization of the continent by aboriginal man, but only two coincide with periods of climate change. Further, historical (within the last 300 years) extinctions in Australia demonstrate a higher susceptibility of small and medium-sized mammals. On all four continents, large-bodied Recent mammals are threatened by human hunting practices, whereas small-bodied species are not. We conclude that the late Pleistocene extinctions were caused primarily by anthropogenic factors such as human hunting, whereas historical extinctions were due mostly to habitat alteration and exotic species introductions.

Keywords: body size distributions, climate change, human hunting, late Pleistocene, megafaunal extinction, size-biased extinction.

IF you are connected using the IP of a subscribing institution (library, laboratory, etc.)
or through its VPN.


        © 2004 S. Kathleen Lyons. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

       Subscribing institutions/libraries may grant individuals the privilege of making a single copy of an EER article for non-commercial educational or non-commercial research purposes. Subscribing institutions/libraries may also use articles for non-commercial educational purposes by making any number of copies for course packs or course reserve collections. Subscribing institutions/libraries may also loan single copies of articles to non-commercial libraries for educational purposes.

       All copies of abstracts and articles must preserve their copyright notice without modification.