Climate change and humans are proposed as the two key drivers of total extinction of many large mammals in the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene, but disentangling their relative roles remains challenging owing to a lack of quantitative evaluation of human impact and climate-driven distribution changes on the extinctions of these large mammals in a continuous temporal–spatial dimension. Here, our analyses showed that temperature change had significant effects on mammoth (genus Mammuthus), rhinoceros (Rhinocerotidae), horse (Equidae) and deer (Cervidae). Rapid global warming was the predominant factor driving the total extinction of mammoths and rhinos in frigid zones from the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene. Humans showed significant, negative effects on extirpations of the four mammalian taxa, and were the predominant factor causing the extinction or major extirpations of rhinos and horses. Deer survived both rapid climate warming and extensive human impacts. Our study indicates that both the current rates of warming and range shifts of species are much faster than those from the Late Pleistocene to Holocene. Our results provide new insight into the extinction of Late Quaternary megafauna by demonstrating taxon-, period- and region-specific differences in extinction drivers of climate change and human disturbances, and some implications about the extinction risk of animals by recent and ongoing climate warming.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3706867.
- Received November 5, 2016.
- Accepted February 21, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.