Clovis groups in Late Pleistocene North America occasionally hunted several now extinct large mammals. But whether their hunting drove 37 genera of animals to extinction has been disputed, largely for want of kill sites. Overkill proponents argue that there is more archaeological evidence than we ought to expect, that humans had the wherewithal to decimate what may have been millions of animals, and that the appearance of humans and the disappearance of the fauna is too striking to be a mere coincidence. Yet, there is less to these claims than meets the eye. Moreover, extinctions took place amid sweeping climatic and environmental changes as the Pleistocene came to an end. It has long been difficult to link those changes to mammalian extinctions, but the advent of ancient DNA, coupled with high-resolution paleoecological, radiocarbon, and archeological records, should help disentangle the relative role of changing climates and people in mammalian extinctions.

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Pleistocene Overkill and North American Mammalian Extinctions

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