As the world grapples with an extinction crisis, it is the large mammals that are most under threat. These threatened species – rhinos, pandas, tigers, polar bears and the like – have a huge influence on their ecosystems. So what will happen to the little animals that are left behind? The past extinctions of fauna can provide us with clues. Thousands of years ago, many large mammals went extinct including the mammoth, the saber toothed cat and the Australian giant wombat. Extinctions occurred at different times, shortly after human occupation occurred on each continent.
In a study I conducted, we found that after the megafauna went extinct, many mammal species remained alive on their own. This weakens connections between species and may make ecosystems more vulnerable. As human activity drives the extinction of modern megafauna, our research provides valuable insights into the potential impact on smaller surviving species.
The animals need each other
The relationships between species large and small are key in the functioning of an ecosystem, making it stable and resilient. Today’s large mammals are relatively smaller than the megafauna of the last ice age. However, they still play an important role in shaping the ecosystem. Just as … Read More