TITLE: End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals
AUTHOR: Ross D.E. MacPhee
ILLUSTRATIONS: Peter Schouten
DATE PUBLISHED: 2019
"Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller—including gorilla-sized lemurs, 500-pound birds, and crocodiles that weighed a ton or more—roamed the earth. These great beasts, or “megafauna,” lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone.
What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths? No one event can be pinpointed as a specific cause, but several factors may have played a role. Paleomammalogist Ross D. E. MacPhee explores them all, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to account for critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses.
Along the way, we learn how time is determined in earth history; how DNA is used to explain the genomics and phylogenetic history of megafauna—and how synthetic biology and genetic engineering may be able to reintroduce these giants of the past. Until then, gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten re-create these megabeasts here in vivid detail. "
This provides a good introduction and overview to the extinctions that occurred in the Cenozoic Era (Age of Mammals), focusing mainly on the megafaunal extinction at the end of the Pleistocene era. The author discusses the evidence (or lack thereof), the various hypotheses, and the opposing or contradictory evidence and opinions. Also discussed is the effect that early humans had on the megafauna and if human actions may be responsible for some of the extinctions. This is an interesting, well thought-out book that is lavishly illustrated and a joy to read.