Thursday, April 19, 2012


Re-wilding North America: Nature 436, 913-914 (18 August 2005) North America lost most of its large vertebrate species — its megafauna — some 13,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene. And now Africa's large mammals are dying, stranded on a continent where wars are waging over scarce resources. However much we would wish otherwise, humans will continue to cause extinctions, change ecosystems and alter the course of evolution. Here, we outline a bold plan for preserving some of our global megafaunal heritage — one that aims to restore some of the evolutionary and ecological potential that was lost 13,000 years ago, and which offers an alternative vision for twenty-first century conservation biology.
Definitely one of the more controversial Nature papers of recent years. Just Google Pleistocene rewilding for lots of links. Or go to the Wikipedia article for lots of links and this handy guide for who replaces who:
  • African Bush Elephant (as a proxy for the extinct Columbian mammoth)
  • Sumatran Elephant (as a proxy for the extinct American Mastodon)
  • African Forest Elephant (as a proxy for the extinct Pygmy Mammoth of Channel Islands of California)
  • Mountain tapir (as a proxy for the extinct California tapir)
  • Bactrian camel (as a proxy for the extinct camelops)
  • Capybara (as a proxy for the extinct species of North American capybara)
  • Onager (as a proxy for the extinct species of North American horses/asses)
  • Grant's Zebra (as a proxy for the extinct Hagerman horse)
  • Asiatic Cheetah (as a proxy for the extinct American cheetah)
  • Barbary Lion (as a proxy for the extinct American lion)
  • Siberian Tiger (occurred in Alaska during the Pleistocene; might also serve as a proxy for the extinct American Lion)
For a contrary view see Pleistocene Park: Does re-wilding North America represent sound conservation for the 21st century? in Biological Conservation


Ryan Creek said...
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Ryan Creek said...

Given the evidence of dramatic climate change during the Quaternary extinction event, many of these animals were probably already doomed before the arrival of hunting peoples. Humans no doubt contributed to some degree to the demise of already stressed populations, and in some cases, probably were the main driving force for extinction. However, it remains controversial if modern environments, even in the absence of humans, could even support many of these extinct species, or their extant relatives. I admit it would be interesting here in Utah to see camels out with the Pronghorn, or coyotes waiting for scraps from a lion kill. I feel we should focus on preserving species in their current environments before we take on such ambitious projects such as this. Then, if we can reverse our current trajectory of continued extinctions, begin to look at repopulating the continents with pleistocene analogs.

Steve said...

This new Idea that Pleistocene man was a big factor in the extinction of the Mega- fauna amuses me.Ok maybe so,,(chuckle) all except for the Dire Wolf,, who's extinction can be blamed on the LaBrea Tar pits!