Monsters We Met

When our early ancestors entered new lands they encountered a variety of strange new creatures, monsters that no longer exist. What were they like and where are they now? What are the real answers to the mystery of the missing megafauna?

Some scientists believe there is damning evidence that humanity hunted the megafauna to extinction. The ‘overkill’ hypothesis holds that the megafauna vanished only a few centuries after the arrival of man and that hunting was the primary cause of the extinctions, for the following reasons:

  • only the larger animals disappeared
  • there is archaeological evidence of human hunting
  • animals had survived previous times of climate change

There have been many mass extinctions throughout geological history, the most well-known being the disappearance of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period. In analysing these events, scientists find that small, medium and large species all become extinct, although large animals (those over 44kg adult weight) always suffer the heaviest loss. These large animals are termed ‘megafauna’.

In contrast, the extinctions at the end of the Pleistocene seem to target large animals, with the small to medium ones escaping relatively lightly. Scientists that support the overkill hypothesis believe that this evidence points to humans as the culprits. The impact of human hunters on populations of large, slow-maturing, slow-breeding animals, such as mammoths and diprotodons, was bound to be far greater than any effect they might have had on small, rapidly breeding prey such as hares or squirrels. Therefore, the overkill theory seems to explain why only the megafauna died out.

Opponents of the overkill hypothesis point to a variety of evidence that human hunters were not the culprits. Their arguments against humanity as killers are:

  • long periods of human-megafauna coexistence
  • little evidence of hunting
  • people were hunting the wrong species

For the overkill hypothesis to hold true, prehistoric humans must have killed off the megafauna very rapidly – within 1,000 years of arriving in a region. If the extinction happened more slowly than this, it wouldn’t have been true overkill. More to the point, it may be impossible to pick apart all the interrelated factors (hunting, climate and competition) that would have played a part over a longer period.

From The Web
Join The Conversation
  • paul

    why are their teeth dirty? Rotting teeth is due to agriculture.

  • mds

    believe it or not, there weren’t too many dentists around that time

  • Lord Xenu

    I dont know about you guy’s but i couldn’t make it through this one. I found it REALLY BORING, which sucks given that the subject matter could be really interesting. Its one of those “documentary’s” (i use the term loosely) where they invent a caveman and speculate about his daily life.

    Rife with unnecessarily long scenes of people doing something like walking across tundra, followed by a narrator “And they walked across the frozen wastes” followed by more long scenes of people doing nothing. -_- I think its one of those shows networks commission as “filler” to jack up ad revenue.

    -If anyone makes it through, please leave a comment as to whether it gets any better than the first half hour.

  • Fox Mulder

    This was a disappointment for me. I was hoping to get some insight on ancient creatures and ended up watching a “quest for fire” docudrama.

  • 1234_raddddical

    the “Story” that they created for the people was over the top…this documentary really was not good.

  • 1234_raddddical

    the “Story” that they created for the people was over the top…this documentary really was not good.

  • 1234_raddddical

    the “Story” that they created for the people was over the top…this documentary really was not good.

  • buffering sux0rz

    This *buffering* documentary is filled  *buffering*  with some  *buffering* possibly  *buffering*  interesting  *buffering*  stuff. However, if every  *buffering*  thing is interrupted by  *buffering* buffering, its just  *buffering*  not worth  *buffering*  watching *buffering* .

    Death to this  *buffering* player.

  • buffering sux0rz

    This *buffering* documentary is filled  *buffering*  with some  *buffering* possibly  *buffering*  interesting  *buffering*  stuff. However, if every  *buffering*  thing is interrupted by  *buffering* buffering, its just  *buffering*  not worth  *buffering*  watching *buffering* .

    Death to this  *buffering* player.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-James-Kinsey/100001003952594 Michael James Kinsey

    Ahh, Noah’s flood might have somethimg to do with their disappearance. Makes more sense than humans killing off every animal. The is global warming BS

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-James-Kinsey/100001003952594 Michael James Kinsey

    Entertaining, but so was the LOTR, Austropissy cuss didn’t really exist. The only proof of it’s exitsance is the pissy people whom made this farce up. It’s the science ,stupid. What proof of evolution since it was picked out of athiest butts, that hasn’t been proven a fraud?

  • Jethro

    You are OBVIOUSLY an idiot. Man has created God to forgive his GUILT over all the things he knew (&knows) was wrong! Looks more like the scientists are TRYING to ” prove” the “holy” books places & events – not doing too well though. Evolution baby, life’s been here for MILLIONS of years, NOT 5-6,000. There’s just too much FACT behind it. Oh yeah, religion’s not based on fact, it’s FANTASY!!