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Pleistocene Mammal Communities and Their Extinction

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Part of the Topics in Geobiology book series (TGBI,volume 42)

Abstract

During the Pleistocene the diversity of mammals in South America became extremely elevated. It seems that hyperdiversity reached the highest known in the world. There has been nowhere else where so many (about 37) megamammals (weighing more than 1000 kg) were found, all of which became extinct, during the last 8000–9000 years ago. Another 44 species or so of large mammals weighing more than 45 kg and less than 1000 kg also became extinct. Of course ecological factors played a huge role in leveling this out-of-balance fauna, but the intriguing question has always been about the role that human beings had to cause these mammals to go extinct. Since we are unsure of the date of arrival of human beings (which might have begun as early as 40,000 years ago), it is difficult to put an exact date on the beginning of this new ecological pressure, but between 12,000 and 8000 years ago, the last extinctions occurred, when we know that humans were living widely throughout the continent.

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Fig. 14.1
Fig. 14.2

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Defler, T. (2019). Pleistocene Mammal Communities and Their Extinction. In: History of Terrestrial Mammals in South America. Topics in Geobiology, vol 42. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-98449-0_14

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