Humans contribute to extinction of woolly rhinoceros: Australian study-Xinhua

Humans contribute to extinction of woolly rhinoceros: Australian study

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-06-05 10:02:45

CANBERRA, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Human activity contributed to the prehistoric extinction of the woolly rhinoceros, Australian research has found.

The study, which was published by the University of Adelaide on Tuesday, found that sustained hunting by humans prevented the woolly rhinoceros from accessing favorable habitats in northern Eurasia at the end of the last ice age, eventually causing their extinction.

The finding contradicts previous research that suggested humans had no role in the extinction of the species.

The research team from the University of Adelaide and University of Copenhagen used computer modeling, fossils and DNA to trace 52,000 years of population history of the woolly rhinoceros across Eurasia at a resolution not previously thought possible.

"This showed that from 30,000 years ago, a combination of cooling temperatures and low but sustained hunting by humans caused the woolly rhinoceros to contract its distribution southward, trapping it in a scattering of isolated and rapidly deteriorating habitats at the end of the Last Ice Age," Damien Fordham, lead author of the study from the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute, said in a media release.

"As Earth thawed and temperatures rose, populations of woolly rhinoceros were unable to colonize important new habitats opening up in the north of Eurasia, causing them to destabilize and crash, bringing about their extinction."

The woolly rhinoceros roamed the mammoth steppe of northern and central Eurasia until its extinction approximately 10,000 years ago. It was one of 61 species of large terrestrial herbivores weighing more than one ton that lived during the late Pleistocene epoch.

The study found that previous research into the extinction of the species overlooked the impact of persistent low levels of hunting of woolly rhinos by humans for food.

It said that humans pose a similar threat today by pushing populations of large animals such as African and Asian rhinos into fragmented and suboptimal habitat ranges due to over-hunting and land-use changes.

David Nogues-Bravo, co-author of the research from the University of Copenhagen, said that studying past extinctions could help safeguard Earth's remaining large animals.