The Elements of Evolution (53-9) The Holocene Extinction

 The Holocene Extinction

The mass extinction that concluded the Pleistocene killed numerous mammal megafauna in Eurasia, including giant ground sloths, saber-toothed cats, mastodons, and enormous armadillos (glyptodons). Most were gone 130 TYA.

Hominin hunting, helped by increasingly arid and erratic climate in the 450,000-year period prior to the Holocene, did the big beasts in. The ones that survived climate change were hunted to extinction. (This was not the first time that large animals were done in by predators. Giant insects were eaten up by nascent birds during the early Cretaceous. A further decrease in maximum insect size occurred during the Cenozoic when bats arose.) More modestly sized animals took their place. Several smaller terrestrial vertebrates also suffered extinctions, though the percentages are not impressive.

Termed the Holocene extinction, this event is misnamed. Though the slaughter of the last megafauna was only 1,000 years ago, it largely happened long before the cusp of the Holocene epoch.

Dodos probably had a similar intelligence level to pigeons. ~ American anatomist Maria Gold

Killing off animals is a continuing human endeavor. The Dutch took possession of the Indian Ocean island Mauritius in 1598. By 1662 they had wiped out the local large flightless bird that was fearless, and so easy game; whence the phrase: “dead as a dodo.”

This was not the first flightless bird that lost its lease on life to rampaging primates. Moa in New Zealand suffered the same fate in the late 13th century after humans arrived. 1,500 settlers managed to kill off the moa in short order; but nobody says: “dead as a moa.”


Modern civilization enjoyed a brief interglacial stage; an exceptional time. 90% of the past 500,000 years has been colder. Thanks to the industry of men, the pleasantness won’t last. The world is already rocketing into hothouse.