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New York SuperGraphic

Extinction

Extinction
The cause of the mastodon's extinction remains a mystery and is still a heated debate among scientists. There are two popular theories of why these hairy beasts disappeared from the Earth: hunting by human predators and climate fluctuations followed by the inability of adapt or migrate.

Human hunting
Human migrants from Asia known as Clovis people, who entered North America approximately 12,000 years ago, may have contributed to the extinction of the mastodon.

Clovis people survived on hunting and gathering wild animals and plants - many of which became extinct. Researchers who support this view believe that human overhunting directly caused the extinction of the mastodon as well as other large mammal species.

Environmental causes
Some scientists think that environmental changes might have caused extinction by eliminating food sources, disrupting birth schedules or exposing animals to climatic conditions to which they could not adapt.

Near the end of the Pleistocene epoch, the climate in the New World began to change rapidly. Temperatures increased significantly, rainfall patterns changed and glaciers melted, all of which caused fundamental changes in the ecosystems of North America. These significant climate changes forced plants and animals to "set up house" elsewhere, which fostered the destruction of plant and animal communities. Some species did not have the ability to migrate and therefore became extinct. This could have been the case of the American mastodon. Scientific opinions vary, but today most scientists favor the human hunting hypothesis over the climate change hypothesis.

The Hyde Park mastodon showed no signs of human intervention. It was a perfectly preserved specimen that probably fell into a pond or bog and became trapped in the mud.

The Mastodon Meet the relatives