Monday, 13 November 2017

Humans Doomed Caribbean's 'Lost World' of Ancient Mammals

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | November 7, 2017 06:40am ET

Thousands of years ago, the forests of the Caribbean islands hosted more than 130 species of diverse mammal life, ranging from sloths and giant monkeys to mammoths and oversize rats. But all that changed after humans showed up, around 6,000 years ago.

After humans began populating islands in the Caribbean, native mammal species began to vanish from the region, according to the fossil record. Today, mammal diversity in the Caribbean is far lower than it was during the time after the last ice age, with only 60 bat species and 13 nonflying mammal species remaining. The story of when dozens of mammal species went extinct is written in fossils, but why they died out has been challenging for scientists to pinpoint.

However, a recent study that analyzed extensive geological evidence alongside records of human migration revealed that two waves of humans settling in the Caribbean — first from the Americas, and then from Europe — dealt a one-two punch to native wildlife and were chiefly responsible for driving so many Caribbean mammal species to extinction. [Wipe Out: History's Most Mysterious Extinctions]

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