Posted November 28th 2018

Dr Susana Carvalho co-authors paper on decline of Africa’s largest mammals

Dr Susana Carvalho, Fellow of St Hugh’s College and Associate Professor in Palaeoanthropology, has co-authored a new paper in Science on human-driven extinction.

It was written in response to an article in the same issue of the journal which suggested that the decline of large mammals began long before humans emerged. Dr Carvalho’s paper, co-authored with Dr René Bobe, asks when “humans, or our ancestors, begin to have such a profound effect on large herbivores to the point of causing extinctions?”

“The human species is causing profound climatic, environmental, and biotic disruptions on a global scale. In the present time (now called the Anthropocene), most species of large terrestrial herbivores are threatened with extinction as their populations decline and their geographic ranges collapse under the pressure of human hunting, poaching, and encroachment. Although the scale of ongoing anthropogenic ecological disruptions is unprecedented, human-driven extinctions are not new”.

They note, “it is not clear what ecological roles hominins played throughout the long evolutionary history of megaherbivores in Africa, and how these roles changed over time and varied across geographic space” and suggest systematic predation was a fallback strategy used by early hominins, a practice that could have had “irreparable effects on the long-term viability of megaherbivore populations.”

The research was reported by the BBC.

The paper can be read here.