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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Prehistory. The extinction of mammoths may have contributed to more frequent fires in the world

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The extinction of mammoths and other herbivorous mammals towards the end of the Quaternary caused a variety of ecological effects, such as the extinction of predators and the disappearance of fruit trees. According to the latest research, the result was also that fires began to occur more frequently in the world.

In the Late Quaternary several thousand years ago, large herbivorous mammals such as mammoths became extinct. As a result, fires began to break out in the grasslands – the savannas – where these animals used to feed. It was global, argue scientists from Yale University (USA). The results of their research were published in the Science weekly.

They ate the plants …

Large herbivores prevent fires because they systematically eat plants that can fuel the fire, the researchers emphasize.

The research team compiled a list of large herbivores that became extinct on four continents between 50,000 and 6,000 years ago, including mammoths, giant bison and archaic horses. Most of them died out in South America, followed by North America, Australia and Africa.

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… and protect the ecosystem

The scientists compared the obtained values ​​with the data on the frequency of fires, collected thanks to the analysis of sedimentary layers from the bottom of the lakes. Charcoal samples were collected from 410 archaeological sites.

“ Extinctions led to a cascade of consequences, ” explained Allison Karp of Yale University.

The extinction of herbivores also caused a variety of other ecological effects, such as the extinction of predators and the disappearance of fruit trees that were spread by herbivorous animals.

How are animals dying out today? Scientists point out that herbivores are more vulnerable than carnivores.

PAP / AFP / Adam Ziemienowicz

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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