[Ed. – Shucks! One less thing to blame humans for.]
A new study disagrees with a longstanding view that humans wiped out large animals that previously occupied Africa.
In research published in the journal Science on Friday, authors analyzed records on megaherbivore communities in eastern Africa over seven million years. A megaherbivore is a mammal weighing more than 2,000 pounds. They concluded that extinctions of diverse mammal communities in Africa occurred before evidence of human hunting.
The animal decline might have instead been because of environmental factors such as declining atmospheric carbon dioxide and expansion of grasslands, researchers write.
“Low CO2 levels favor tropical grasses over trees, and as a consequence savannas became less woody and more open through time,” John Rowan, a postdoctoral scientist from the University of Massachusetts Amherst who was involved in the research, said in a statement. “We know that many of the extinct megaherbivores fed on woody vegetation, so they seem to disappear alongside their food source.”