Late Pleistocene Megafaunal Extinctions

A European Perspective
  • Anthony John Stuart
Part of the Advances in Vertebrate Paleobiology book series (AIVP, volume 2)


This chapter focuses on the accelerated extinction of megafauna that occurred within the late Pleistocene, ca. 50,000 to 10,000 radiocarbon years before present, with some reference to earlier (Pleistocene) and later (Holocene) events. It is important to distinguish between, on the one hand, extinction of a species because of replacement by its evolutionary descendant, or by a less closely related competitor (the normal processes of faunal turnover), and on the other, extinction without ecological replacement. It is the latter that concerns us here.


Late Pleistocene Late Glacial Cold Stage Spotted Hyena White Rhinoceros 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bassinot, F. C., Labeyrie, L. D., Vincent, E., Quidelleur, X., Shackleton, N. J., and Lancelot, Y. 1994. The astronomical theory of climate and the age of the Brunhes-Matuyama magnetic reversal. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 126: 91–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beaulieu, J. L., and Reille, M. 1992. Long Pleistocene pollen sequences from the Velay Plateau (Massif Central, France), 1, Rabains Maar. Vegetation Hist. Archaeobot. 1: 223–242.Google Scholar
  3. Bennett, K. D., Tzedakis, P. C., and Willis, K. J. 1991. Quaternary refugia of north European trees. J. Biogeogr. 18: 103–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dansgaard, W., Johnsen, S. J., Clausen, H. B., Dahl-Jensen, D., Gunderstrup, N. S., Hammer, C. U., Hvidberg, C. S., Steffensen, J. P., Sveinbjomsdottir, H., Jouzel, J., and Bond, G. 1993. Evidence for general instability of past climate from a 250-kyr ice-core record. Nature 364: 218–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dennell, R., and Roebroeks, W. 1996. The earliest colonization of Europe: the short chronology revisited. Antiquity 70: 535–542.Google Scholar
  6. Godwin, H. 1975. History of the British Flora: A Factual Basis for Phyrogeography, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, London.Google Scholar
  7. Graham, R. W. 1990. Evolution of new ecosystems at the end of the Pleistocene, in: L. D. Agenbroad, J. I. Mead, and L. W. Nelson (eds.), Megafauna and Man, pp. 54–60. North Arizona Press, Flagstaff.Google Scholar
  8. Graham, R. W., and Lundelius, E. L. 1984. Coevolutionary disequilibrium and Pleistocene extinctions, in: P. S. Martin and R. G. Klein (eds.), Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution, pp. 223–249. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  9. Greenland Ice Core Project Members (GRIP). 1993. Climatic instability during the Last Interglacial period recorded in the GRIP core. Nature 364: 203–207.Google Scholar
  10. Guthrie, R. D. 1984. Mosaics, allochemicals and nutrients, in: P. S. Martin and R. G. Klein (eds.), Quaternary Extinctions, pp. 259–298. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  11. Guthrie, R. D. 1990. Late Pleistocene faunal revolution: a new perspective on the extinction debate, in: L. D. Agen-broad, J. I. Mead, and L. W. Nelson (eds.), Megafauna and Man, pp. 42–53. North Arizona Press, Flagstaff.Google Scholar
  12. Huntley, B., and Birks, H. J. B. 1983. An Atlas of Past and Present Pollen Maps for Europe: 0–13,000 Years Ago. Cambridge University Press, London.Google Scholar
  13. Jones, R. L., and Keen, D. H. 1993. Pleistocene Environments in the British Isles. Chapman & Hall, London.Google Scholar
  14. Long, A., Sher, A. V., and Vartanyan, S. L. 1994. Holocene mammoth dates. Nature 369: 364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. MacPhee, R. D. E., and Marx, R. A. 1997. The 40,000 year plague: humans, hyperdisease, and first contact extinctions, in: S. M. Goodman and B. D. Patterson (eds.), Natural Change and Human Impact in Madagascar, pp. 169–217. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  16. Martin, P. S. 1984. Prehistoric overkill: a global model, in: R. S. Martin and R. G. Klein (eds.), Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution, pp. 354–403. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  17. Martin, P. S., and Stuart, A. J. 1995. Mammoth extinction: two continents and Wrangel Island. Radiocarbon 37 (1): 7–10.Google Scholar
  18. Maslin, M., and Tzedakis, C. 1996. Sultry Last Interglacial gets sudden chill. Eos Trans. Am. Geophys. Union 77 (37): 353–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Murray, P. 1991. The Pleistocene megafauna of Australia, in: P. Vickers-Rich, J. M. Monaghan, R. F. Baird, andGoogle Scholar
  20. T. H. Rich (eds.), Vertebrate Palaeontology of Australasia,pp. 1071–1164. Pioneer Design Studio, VictoriaGoogle Scholar
  21. Owen-Smith, N. 1987. Pleistocene extinctions: the pivotal role of megaherbivores. Paleobiology 13(3):351–362.Google Scholar
  22. Owen-Smith, N. 1988. Megaherbivores: The Influence of Very Large Body Size on Ecology. Cambridge University Press, London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stringer, C. B. 1995. The evolution and distribution of later Pleistocene human populations, in: E. S. Vrba and G. H. Denton (eds.), Paleoclimate and Evolution: with Emphasis on Human Origins. Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  24. Stuart, A. J. 1982. Pleistocene Vertebrates in the British Isles. Longman, London.Google Scholar
  25. Stuart, A. J. 1991. Mammalian extinctions in the Late Pleistocene of northern Eurasia and North America. Biol. Rev. 66: 453–562.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Stuart, A. J. 1993. The failure of evolution: late Quaternary mammalian extinctions in the Holarctic. Quat. Int. 19: 101–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Stuart, A. J. 1995. Insularity and Quaternary vertebrate faunas in Britain and Ireland, in: R. C. Preece (ed.), Island Britain: A Quaternary Perspective, pp. 111–125. Geol. Soc. Spec. Publ. No. 96.Google Scholar
  28. Tzedakis, P. C., and Bennett, K. D. 1996. Interglacial vegetation succession: a view from southern Europe. Quat. Sc. Rev. 14: 967–982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vartanyan, S. L., Garrutt, V. E., and Sher, A. V. 1993. Holocene dwarf mammoths from Wrangel Island in the Siberian Arctic. Nature 382: 337–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vartanyan, S. L., Arslanov, K. A., Tertychnaya, T. V., and Chernov, S. 1995. Radiocarbon dating evidence for mammoths on Wrangel Island, Arctic Ocean until 2000 BC. Radiocarbon 37 (1): 7–10.Google Scholar
  31. Vereschagin, N. K., and Baryshnikov, G. F. 1984. Quaternary mammalian extinctions in northern Eurasia, in: P. S. Martin and R. G. Klein (eds.), Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution, pp. 483–516. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  32. Watts, W. A. 1980. A long pollen record from Laghi di Monticchio, southern Italy: a preliminary account. J. Geol. Soc. London 142: 491–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. West, R. G. 1980. Pleistocene forest history in East Anglia. New phytol. 85: 571–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Zagwijn, W. H. 1992. Migration of vegetation during the Quaternary in Europe. Courier Forschungsinst. Senckenberg. 153: 9–20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony John Stuart
    • 1
  1. 1.Norwich Castle MuseumNorwichUK

Personalised recommendations