Food Fight in PNAS!

Not really, it’s more of a scrum as various archaeologists exchange letters over the idea that there was a meteor/asteroid/somethingorother impact over Canada that led to the Younger Dryas and contributed to the extonction of the megafauna. The letters can be found in the Early Edition for December 10th. Those of you who have access might find them interesting…

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9 Responses

  1. Was there a recent article that prompted these letters? Or did PNAS just save up letters on the Dryas comet theory to print together?

  2. I think it all goes back to this article but I don’t have access so I haven’t read the letters…still working on getting them.

  3. Ah, a cunning hint dropped there. :-) Check your email.

  4. Thanks Bob!

  5. This idea has been out and about for awhile now. I read about it in Science News some time back and that’s only summaries of articles published or papers presented elsewhere. But there is quite a lot of evidence piling up in favor of the hypothesis. There are those miniature diamonds, fullerenes, the funny looking lakes, some mammoth bones with suspicious shrapnel-like bits in them, the iridium layer, shocked quartz — a lot of the same type of stuff that was once used to convince scientists that an asteroid or large meteor did in the dinosaurs at the KT boundary. Plus there’s the tidy end-of-megafauna and end-of-Clovis culture in North America which comes at the right time. But, of course, the scientists who oppose the idea will probably have to all die of old age before the idea will become generally accepted. That is the way it usually works, isn’t it?

  6. Well, yes and no. There are alternative explanations for each of the items used to support the theory.

  7. It amazes me the hypotheses people come up with to avoid the obvious: humans did it. I’m reading a book “Australia’s Mammal Extinctions” by Chris Johnson. He goes into detail as to exactly how it was possible, even with a very small level of hunting, and demolishes all alterantive hypotheses for Australia’s megafauna extinctions. We all accept humans were responsible in New Zealand, and in Madagascar. The same arguments hold for North America and Northern Eurasia but everyone seem desperate to avoid accepting the idea for some reason or other.

  8. Johnson’s book on Australian mammal extinctions is a great read and a mine of information. Like terryt, I find his argument that human hunting was the driver of Pleistocene extinctions to be very convincing.
    I think one reason why many people still fight tooth and nail against the overkill hypothesis is good old Political Correctness. The ‘Noble Savage’ myth is still alive and well in some quarters. It’s seen as not very flattering to modern-day indigenous people in Australasia and the Americas to suggest that their ancestors killed off most of the big animals they found when they arrived on those continents. Only wicked white westerners are supposed to be capable of such things.

  9. That’s the only reason I can think of.

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