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New research has revealed that abrupt global warming, reminiscent of current man-made warming, has played an important role in the mass extinction of large animals in the past.
An international team of researchers consisting of staff from the University of Adelaide and the University of New South Wales, both in Australia, has revealed that the rapid climatic changes known in the last ice age or Pleistocene, which lasted from 2.49 million years ago to 10,000 BC, coincides with the time of greatest extinctions before the appearance of man. The researchers say that very cold periods, such as the last ice age, do not seem to correspond to mass extinctions.
"The sudden warming had a profound impact on the climate and caused profound changes in the global rainfall system and vegetation patterns," explains Professor Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide, adding: "Even without the presence of humans we have observed mass extinctions. If we add the human presence to this fact, the consequences of global warming can be very worrying in our future ecosystem ”.
The researchers reached these conclusions after detect a pattern in DNA studies that indicates the disappearance of large species. At first the researchers thought that the extinctions were related to intense cold waves.
However, as the DNA of fossils of species that museums have made available to researchers has been studied and thanks to improvements in radiocarbon dating and the study of temperature records, the exact opposite is shown.
Researchers have helped in this way explain the sudden disappearance of mammoths and the great sloths that became extinct about 11,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age.
"It is important to recognize that human action has played an important role in the disappearance of large species," commented Professor Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales.