Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Giant Extinction

For a long time, some people have blamed man for the extinction of such ice age wonders as the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros. To them, I guess ‘man’ was ‘the great killer’, killing animals right and left, indiscriminately, and with no thought to the consequences.
That never seemed quite fair to me. Yes, I know that white men came to the Americas and slaughtered whole herds of buffalo just because they could. There are stupid people in the world, after all. But those men had guns. And although large, American buffalo are not giants.
True, the American buffalo is only slightly smaller in size than the woolly rhinoceros, but the rhinoceros weighed quite a bit more - as much as 3.5 tons compared to the 1 ton for the largest and heaviest American buffalo. And a woolly mammoth could easily stand twice as tall as a human and weigh 6 tons.
There were no guns during the last ice age. Man had spears, arrows, knives and possibly a couple other men to help him kill these giants. Would you like to pit your skills with such ancient types of weapons against a modern elephant or rhinoceros?
I doubt if ice age men saw such hunts as sport. Hunting was a necessity to feed the tribe, and if they could find some rabbits, fish, fowl or other animals smaller than a woolly giant, I’m sure they would have been happy to carry those home. Don’t get me wrong; humans probably did kill some of the giants, but I personally think they would have rather avoided such a dangerous practice.
Scientists have been studying the flora that could be found during the last ice age, as well as the stomach and feces contents of frozen woolly animals. It seems the ground where these creatures roamed was covered in wildflowers that were high in protein. But when the weather warmed up, the flowers died off, leaving only grasses that could not satisfy the giants’ nutritional needs.

And so the woolly giants followed the lead of those wildflowers and died off.

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