Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Early Americans faced rapid late Pleistocene climate change and chaotic environments

20.02.2006


The environment encountered when the first people emigrated into the New World was variable and ever-changing, according to a Penn State geologist.



"The New World was not a nice quiet place when humans came," says Dr. Russell Graham, associate professor of geology and director of the Earth & Mineral Sciences Museum.

Archaeologists agree that by 11,000 years ago, people were spread across North and South America, but evidence is building for an earlier entry into the New World, a date that would put human population of North and South America firmly in the Pleistocene.


"We want to know what it was like back then," says Graham. "What did they have to deal with?"

The Pleistocene Holocene transition took place about 11,000 years ago and caused the extinction of a large number of animal species including mammoths, mastodons and ground sloths. The Holocene looked very different from the Pleistocene.

"We now realize that climate changes extremely rapidly," Graham told attendees at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science today (Feb.19) in St. Louis, Mo. "The Pleistocene to Holocene transition occurred in about 40 years."

As a result, animals and plants shifted around and the people living in the New World had to adapt so that they could find the necessary resources to survive. Graham likened the change to the difference between shopping at a WalMart where there is great abundance and large variety – the Pleistocene – to suddenly having to shop at a corner convenience store – the Holocene. In human terms this means that what grandparents knew to be true about finding resources, could be untrue and not helpful to grandchildren.

During the Pleistocene large eastern coastal resources existed, including walruses, south, as far as Virginia, seals and a variety of fish. Mammoth, caribou and mastodons were plentiful across the continent as well as smaller animals. The situation was not identical in all places across North America because, during segments of the Pleistocene, large portions of the Eastern North American continent were covered in ice, while western locations were ice free much further north.

"The Holocene climate is much more stable than the Pleistocene – warmer but more stable," says Graham. "The environment, however, became more homogeneous, there was less variety."

Graham argues that the Pleistocene experienced a series of rapid climate changes that created patchiness in the environment, but that once the climate change that signaled the beginning of the Holocene occurred, the climate settled down. Humans coming into the New World during the late Pleistocene would have encountered an environment shaped by rapid changes creating variety in available food sources both animal and vegetable. The groups of people would have to adapt continually and find new resources, but the variety of resources was out there. After the Holocene took hold, there was less need to adapt constantly, but also fewer options in resources.

Archaeologists and geologists debate whether the climate change at the Pleistocene Holocene transition caused the extinction of the mega fauna or if the influx of humans did in the large animals. Graham believes that it was the unstable changing rapidly changing climate, not human predation that killed the large Pleistocene animals.

A’ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Greenhouse gases' millennia-long ocean legacy
04.08.2015 | Carnegie Institution

nachricht NASA sees heavy rainfall in Super Typhoon Soudelor
04.08.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Greenhouse gases' millennia-long ocean legacy

Continuing current carbon dioxide (CO2) emission trends throughout this century and beyond would leave a legacy of heat and acidity in the deep ocean. These...

Im Focus: Glaciers melt faster than ever

Glacier decline in the first decade of the 21st century has reached a historical record, since the onset of direct observations. Glacier melt is a global phenomenon and will continue even without further climate change. This is shown in the latest study by the World Glacier Monitoring Service under the lead of the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

The World Glacier Monitoring Service, domiciled at the University of Zurich, has compiled worldwide data on glacier changes for more than 120 years. Together...

Im Focus: Quantum Matter Stuck in Unrest

Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.

What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...

Im Focus: On the crest of the wave: Electronics on a time scale shorter than a cycle of light

Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.

The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Success 4.0 – Is Your Company Fit for the Future? New Series of Events for Executives

04.08.2015 | Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Small tilt in magnets makes them viable memory chips

04.08.2015 | Information Technology

New Design Brings World’s First Solar Battery to Performance Milestone

04.08.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Magnetism at Nanoscale

04.08.2015 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>