Past tropical forest changes drove megafauna and hominin extinctions

Past tropical forest changes drove megafauna and hominin extinctions
Artist’s reconstruction of a savannah in Middle Pleistocene Southeast Asia. In the foreground Homo erectus, stegodon, hyenas, and Asian rhinos are depicted. Water buffalo can be seen at the edge of a riparian forest in the background Credit: Peter Schouten

In a paper published today in the journal Nature, scientists from the Department of Archaeology at MPI-SHH in Germany and Griffith University’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution have found that the loss of southeast Asian grasslands was instrumental in the extinction of many of the region’s megafauna, and probably of ancient humans too.


“Southeast Asia is often overlooked in global discussions of megafauna extinctions,” says Associate Professor Julien Louys, who led the study, “But in fact, it once had a much richer mammal community full of giants that are now all extinct.”

By looking at stable isotope records in modern and fossil mammal teeth, the researchers were able

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