martes, 22 de abril de 2014

India's ancient mammals survived multiple pressures

Most of the mammals that lived in India 200,000 years ago still roam the subcontinent today, in spite of two ice ages, a volcanic super-eruption and the arrival of people, a study reveals.

In contrast, nearly two-thirds of mammals in northern Eurasia, Australia, Madagascar and the Americas died out by 10,000 years ago.

The findings suggest that many of India's charismatic animals, such as bears, leopards and wolves, may have been more able to adapt to ecological pressures than mammals elsewhere.

They also highlight the importance of connected habitats and could help protect some of today's most endangered Indian creatures.

Researchers think India's mammals survived crises by moving between connected safe havens, known as refugia. More stable weather in the area over the last 200,000 years compared to other parts of the world could also have played a part in the mammals' persistence.

Until now, many researchers thought widespread extinctions affecting far-apart places like North America, Europe and Australia must have been worldwide phenomena, caused by single problems like climate change or overhunting.

But this latest study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that extinctions may instead be the result of multiple pressures.

'Most of the research on mega-faunal extinctions over the last 30 or 40 years has focused on North America, Australia and Madagascar, so that has shaped our thinking on the topic. These places saw much more extremes of climate change than the Indian subcontinent did. These and human factors may have led to big changes in faunal populations,' says Professor Michael Petraglia of the University of Oxford, who led the study. [...] planetearth.nerc.ac.uk