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Elucidating the extinction of North American Pleistocene megafauna


IGERT trainee Tyler Faith published his work on North American Pleistocene extinctions in the December 8 issue of PNAS. His research featured in December issues of Scientific American and Science Daily. Faith and his colleague Todd Surovell of the University of Wyoming provided a statistical analysis of the chronology of North American Pleistocene extinctions to show that the extinction of 35 genera took place abruptly between 12,000 and 10,000 radiocarbon years ago. Their results favored an extinction mechanism capable of wiping out up to 35 genera, characterized by a diverse range of feeding habits and habitat preferences, across the continent in a geologic instant. While their work could not confirm the popular “overkill” hypothesis by prehistoric hunter-gatherers, such a hypothesis would be consistent with their results.