Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Pleistocene Extinction Hypotheses

135 species of New World megafauna became extinct within four centuries c. 12kya. There have been three major competing explanations for these events.

1. the Pleistocene climate change hypothesis invokes concurrent climatic changes that accompanied the retreat of the major ice pack from North America.

2. the Pleistocene disease hypothesis proposed by Ross D. E. McPhee in 1997 invokes pathogens that jumped from the Native Americans or their domesticates who had recently arrived from Asia via Beringia; Aka the hyperdisease extinction hypothesis, or hyperdisease theory of mammoth extinction.

3. the Pleistocene overkill hypothesis proposed by Paul S. Martin in 1967 invokes overhunting by Native Americans; Aka the prehistoric overkill hypothesis. Similar hypotheses exist to explain similar rates of extinction in Australia, cf. the blitzkrieg humaninduced extinction model.

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