Accessibility statement

Nature: Future survival of animals unknown in climate change age

Posted on 3 November 2011

Mega study of megafauna

from Species-specific responses of Late Quaternary megafauna to climate and humans © 2011 Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.

In one of the biggest studies of its kind, an inter-disciplinary team from more than 40 universities around the world, led by the University of Copenhagen and including scientists from the University of York, tried to answer the contentious question: was it climate change or human interference that caused the extinction of large-bodied mammals (“megafauna”) such as the Eurasian musk ox and steppe bison?

Their findings, published online today in the journal Nature, show dramatically different reactions for different species, making it harder for experts to know how existing mammals will respond to future changes in the Earth’s temperatures.

Professor Michi Hofreiter, of the Department of Biology at York and a member of the York Centre for Human Palaeo-ecology and Evolutionary Origins (PALAEO), said: “It is remarkable that despite the huge amount of data analysed in this study no clear pattern emerged that allows distinguishing surviving from extinct species. This shows that each species reacts differently to environmental changes. Therefore, we should probably be very careful with making generalizations, both about what happened in the past and what might happen in the future.”

For more details see full press release from the University of York.

Story from Nature How mammoths lost the extinction lottery.