Lost Giants; February 2010; Scientific American Magazine; by Charles Q. Choi; 2 Page(s)
Before humans arrived, the Americas were home to woolly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths and other behemoths, an array of megafauna more impressive than even Africa boasts today. Researchers have advanced several theories to explain what did them in and when the event occurred. A series of discoveries announced last fall, at first glance apparently contradictory, add fresh details to the mystery of this mass extinction.
One prominent theory pegs humans as the cause of the demise, often pointing to the Clovis people, who left the earliest clear signs of humans entering the New World roughly 13,500 years ago. The timing coincides with the disappearance of megafauna, suggesting the Clovis hunted the animals to extinction or infected them with deadly disease. Another hypothesis supposes that climate was the culprit: it had swung from cold to warm twice, including a 1,300-year-long chill known as the Younger Dryas; such abrupt shifts might have overwhelmed the creatures’ abilities to adapt.