Megafauna. The world we have lost forever

The word "megafauna" refers to the collection of all kinds of animals with a mean body weight exceeding 44 kg. However, in reality the boundaries of the concept is rather arbitrary: thus, some researchers take the lower limit for the mass of 100 kg, some - 250, but the few who doubt that a giant eagle from New Zealand or the world famous dodo - also part of the megafauna.
For us, the greatest interest is the Pleistocene megafauna. Pleistocene (1, 8 million - 11 thousand. Years ago, in fact - to this day) - the era in Earth's history has been marked by several major events: the emergence of Homo sapiens, several periods of severe cold snaps ... and the extinction of most of the large animals around the world. Giants, who disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene era and which we now hardly ever see with their own eyes, and is dedicated to this post. Before you - 30 amazing animals that have disappeared over the last few thousand years, someone before, and someone - almost yesterday ... Almost all of them have seen with my own eyes the ancient people, they are the same in most cases, had a hand in their early extinction. 1. mammoths, elephants, mastodons




Proboscidea, the largest land animals of the Quaternary period, which are landscape-animals and brightest indicator of the health of biocenosis were distributed on four continents and a variety of offshore islands, and the diversity of species was not present in the sample. In our native Eurasia met woolly mammoth (genus Mammuthus), pryamobivnevy elephant (Palaeoloxodon), Stegodon (Stegodon) still alive and the Asian elephant. America was inhabited by two species of mammoths - woolly and Columbia, as well as the mastodon (Mammut americanum) and gompotery (Cuvieronius). In Africa, the current living African elephant, and even earlier, in the Early Pleistocene - several species, including Asian. Elephants who had moved to the isolated islands, eventually becoming ... dwarf; so happened to Stegodon Islands Flores and Sulawesi (Indonesia), mammoths on Wrangel Island (Russian) and Channel Islands (USA), elephants Islands of the Mediterranean (Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Cyprus, Malta, Crete and several Greek islands). The growth of these elephants sometimes barely reached 1 m ...
In the disappearance of the great diversity Proboscidea still have a lot of obscure; so, there is still an ongoing debate about the causes of extinction of mammoths in Siberia and the Arctic. Doubtless the activities of two factors - climate change and actively hunt ancient people. Different types of elephants on different continents disappeared respectively at different times: US - 8-10 thousand. Years ago, Eurasian - a little earlier. Dwarf elephants lived up to the beginning of the Holocene (the Greek island of Tilos - until about 2000 BC), just before the extinct mammoths on Wrangel Island; the last representative gompoteriev - Cuvieronius disappeared in South America supposedly to 400 AD

2. Rhinos



Woolly Rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) - second fame Pleistocene mammoth beast after. Its length reaches 3, 5 m, weight - up to 3 tons. The face he had two horns, the longest of which, front, sometimes reaching more than 1 m in length. An important feature of this type - a long thick coat of brown, like the mammoth, which allowed a rhino to survive in inhospitable for heat-loving animals of northern and central Eurasia. Woolly rhinoceros lived on the cold plains, known as "Mammoth Steppe" - in their place now noisy coniferous and deciduous forests. Extinct form of about 10 thousand years ago, and possibly later. As in the case of the mammoth, there are two main hypotheses disappearance northern rhinos: rapid climate change and excessive hunting of ancient man. Most likely, both factors affected ...
Far less known are two other possible contemporary ancient people - Elasmotherium (Elasmotherium, 3-4 species) and rhino Merck (Dicerorhinus kirchbergensis). Elasmotherium was truly a giant beast: height at the withers it reaches 2, 3 m, and weight - up to 6 tons! On his head was only one horn, but at length he could conceivably reach up to two meters. Rhino Merck was similar in size and woolly was also two-horned. Both of these animals became extinct before the woolly rhinoceros - perhaps not compete with them the same; but some researchers believe that the relict populations Elasmotherium Merck and rhinos survived until the end of the Pleistocene, and met with the ancient people.

3. Bulls



Subfamily oxen (Bovinae) over the past 10,000 years has lost some very interesting and sometimes very colorful species. North America and Eurasia have lost several species of bison, the most famous of which - the steppe bison (Bison priscus), dwelt on both sides of the Atlantic and extinct about 6,000 years ago. Even in Africa, where the extinction of large animals was not of a mass character, just 4,000 years ago disappeared huge buffalo longhorned pelorovis (Pelorovis antiquus). Several kinds of the bulls, in particular Baikal yak (Poephagus baicalensis) and dwarf buffalo Philippines (Bubalus cebuensis), extinct in Asia. But the most famous views of the missing bulls, of course, is the tour (Bos primigenius) - wild ox from Europe and Asia, who became the ancestor of most breeds of cattle. This powerful animal black color with a light stripe on the back completely disappeared by 1627.
One of the main reasons for the sharp reduction in the number of wild bulls (and falling numbers of many surviving species) - active pursuit of human beings; hunting scenes and bison bulls often appear in cave paintings. In addition, the great influence of climatic factors on the reduction in the number of large bovids ungulates, especially in northern latitudes.

4. Cave bear



Cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) - another extinct animal with a man, a well-known and wide, far from paleontology and archeology circles. He met in Europe - Western (larger species 3 and 5 m in length) and East (no more brown). The cave bear was attracted mainly to the open spaces and not to forests, as well as to the caves. Another important difference: while the brown bear is a classic omnivore with a margin of planteating and cave bear was almost complete vegetarian. Therefore, for the ancient people could pose a danger only the strength and size of this beast is hardly ever this kind of bears specifically prey on people.
Disappeared cave bear about 10 thousand. Years ago, and perhaps a little later. The most likely cause of its extinction is as follows: after the end of the last Ice Age steppe zone quickly covered with dense forests, depriving bear usual habitat; individuals just choose a cave as a shelter, were killed people. In addition hunted for the last frightening, but not too dangerous giants: meat and warm bear fur coat - good trophies.

5. Arktodus



Two kinds of long-legged, Short-faced bear that lived in North America. In contrast to the relatively sluggish and omnivorous brown, black and cave bears, giant bear ploskomordy (Russian name of the larger species Arctodus simus) was present and active predator hunters who catch and kill very large prey, until the moose, camels, buffalo and young Mammoth - as do modern lions. Its dimensions are appropriate: height at withers - 1, 6 m, standing height on its hind legs - more than 3 m, and weight - up to a ton.
Gone arktodusy about 10-12 thousand. Years ago, along with the rest of the Pleistocene megafauna America. Possible reasons: competition with the brown bear (which is unlikely: arktodus was much stronger, and in open spaces in the brown did not stand a chance - that the success of the hunt, in battle one on one) or a sharp reduction in food resources due to climate or ( i) human factors (which is likely).

6. Lions


The present area of ​​a lion (Panthera leo) is limited to sub-Saharan Africa and the tiny reserve in India. This is - only a small part of the original area of ​​a lion - or rather, several of its sub-species, and possibly species: cave lion (P. l. Spelaea) met in Eurasia - from England to Siberia and Turkmenistan, the lion Vereshchagin (P. l. Vereshchagini) - from Yakutia to Alaska, American lion (P. l. atrox) inhabited the Americas - from Alaska in the north to the south of Peru. Another two subspecies of lion (Barbary and Asian) live in Europe and Central Asia.
The most well-known cave and American lions. What they looked like, we do not know; presumably their color was a pale, very likely - with spots or stripes. The presence of the male mane challenged (my personal opinion - mane was her warmer). Linear dimensions surpassed African lions: American subspecies was a Siberian tiger and even larger.
All Lions are active hunters and their top predator biomes; Only the American lion inferior in size and strength ploskomordomu bear. They were prey to all sorts of ungulates, millions herds roamed the steppes and woodlands Palearctic.
American and cave lions disappeared about 10 thousand. Years ago; separate populations could live to ancient times. Probable causes of extinction - hunger due to a sharp decline in the number of production; active competition with man; a combination of climatic and anthropogenic factors ... Barbary lion in the wild destroyed to 1922 .; Asiatic lion is preserved only in India (population size - about 300 individuals) and in several zoos around the world.

7. saber-toothed cats


These saber-toothed cats (Machairodontinae) - subfamily of large carnivores of the cat family, highly specialized in the production of herbivorous pachyderms, such as bulls, giant sloths and elephants. In public, they are known as the saber-toothed tigers, but morphologically these animals are not related to mean tiger (Panthera tigris), but cats are directly. The main differences from the modern sabers big cats - a short tail and a unique jaw apparatus: upper canines were huge sizes (up to 17 cm), and the lower jaw can be opened with the top so widely that it was an angle of 120 °.
Until the late Pleistocene survived at least two kinds of saber-toothed: Smilodon (Smilodon) and Homotherium (Homotherium). Smilodon, classic saber-toothed tiger, was the size of a large lion (height at the withers - up to 1, 2 m, weight - 300 kg) and lived in North and South America. Homotherium was a little less; by Smilodon it has a relatively short fangs and lighter physique. He lived in Africa, Eurasia and North America.
Recent saber-toothed cats have disappeared in North America 8-10 thousand years ago, and in Eurasia and Africa - even earlier. Causes of extinction of these strong and dangerous predators not completely clear, but three versions are obvious: the fierce competition with these cats (lion, tiger, jaguar, etc.), Climate change and pressure from the man. Most likely, a combination of these three factors, and was fatal.

8. American cheetahs


At least two major North American species of the cat (born Miracinonyx), morphologically very similar to the African cheetah, but genetically closer to the cougar. Unlike the vast majority of other members of the megafauna, American cheetah is known only from fragments of skeletons, so much about its biology still remains unclear. But we know that it looks very interesting animal resembled the modern cheetahs and hunting just catching prey in the sprint throw. As proof of this fact now living in North America, pronghorn antelope can reach speeds up to 100 km / h. None of the modern American predators can not run as fast, and that means only one thing - most recently existed footed predator, for salvation from which it was necessary to develop high-speed skills. This predator was the American cheetah - other contenders for this is not. And it died out relatively recently - 10-13 thousand. Years ago.

9. Deer


On today's time, there are many species of deer; However, much of the original diversity of these beautiful animals disappeared during the Pleistocene - early Holocene. Here are some of them: the largest and most famous - bolsherogy deer (Megaloceros giganteus) from Europe, North Africa and North-West Asia, majestic animal growth at the withers to 2, 1 m, 3 m long, with huge beautiful horns scale to 3 6 m. Two kinds of his immediate family - Praemegaceros and Sinomegaceros - met by the end of the Pleistocene on the island of Sicily and in East Asia, respectively. On both sides of the Atlantic lived Cervalces huge size of a large elk; North American deer were driven from the genera Navahoceros and Sangamona - average size, with a reindeer.
The disappearance of several genera of large and giant deer 9-12 happened thousands of years ago, some species have become extinct and later. Likely causes - global climate change, pressure from the people and the competition with surviving species of deer and elk.

10. The dire wolf


In North America, at the time of its settlement inhabited by man is not only well known to us the gray wolf. Hundreds of thousands of years ago on the continent appeared view, which was later people will call dire wolf (Canis dirus). He was larger and more massive than the gray wolf (1, 5 m in length, weighing up to 80 kg), characterized by shorter legs and larger teeth. It was a gregarious predator, hunting for very large animals, such as horses and bison.
Dire wolf disappeared about 10,000 years ago - at a time when the mass extinction of large animals in North America, is the food great dogs. Last population of the species probably lived up to the 2nd millennium BC in the Ozark Mountains (Arkansas, USA).
The remains dire wolf are the most numerous findings in degtyanyh traps Ranch La Brea (CA): there is found more than three thousand skeletons of this animal.

11. Giant beavers


Modern beaver - one of the largest rodents of our time. If until now lived to its distant relative of the North American, he undoubtedly would have been an absolute champion: the length of the US giant beaver (Castoroides ohioensis) reached 2, 5 m, and weight - up to 220 kg! In addition to size, the giant beaver different from the usual narrower tail, like the tail of a muskrat, and huge teeth protruding from the gums almost 15 cm. On the way of life of a giant beaver yet we can only guess. He could be as zealous builder (like its smaller cousin), and living in open countryside on the banks of major rivers and lakes, it is possible - in burrows near water.
Disappeared giant rodent about 9, 5 thousand years ago, presumably due to the reduction of habitual him habitat and persecution by man.
In the Pleistocene Europe lived another kind of giant beavers - trogontery (Trogontherium), but it died out much earlier and maybe never cross with people.

12. Long-legged bakers


Two kinds of small pigs, close relatives of modern bakers. In larger sizes (up to a meter or more), and long legs, thanks to which the animals were good runners. Rhode Platygonus different short muzzle with large and sharp fangs, serves as a good means of defense against predators. Larger Mylohyus (up to 90 cm tall!), By contrast, had a long elongated front part of the head, resembling the extinct millions of years ago, giant carnivorous pigs Entelodon. Lived leggy bakers in North America, probably moving the prairies and woodlands in small groups, like antelopes.
Gone are the giant peccary, like many other members of the North American megafauna, about 9-12 thousand years ago.

13. Thylacoleo


The largest marsupial carnivore Australia, reaches the size of the modern jaguar length from the tip of the snout to the base of the tail - 110 cm, height at the withers - 70 cm, weight - 100 kg or more. The jaws of the marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex) in bite force did not concede a lion, and a powerful musculature demonstrates the tremendous power of this beast, no doubt able to bring down the largest herbivores in the continent - such as Diprotodon and giant kangaroos. Details of the marsupial lion skeleton gives reason to suppose that the animal could sit on his hind legs, relying on a strong tail, as do the kangaroo, and climb trees in the manner of a leopard.
Disappeared Thylacoleo 30-40 thousand. Years ago, at the same time with the rest of the Australian megafauna. Rumors that he could live up to historical times, still excite the minds cryptozoologists, nurturing the hope to find the mysterious "tiger cat Queensland." But the chances of enthusiasts luck now almost nil ...

14. Diprotodon


Diprotodon or "marsupial behemoth" (born Diprotodon) - a huge herbivore from Australia, the largest specimens of which reaches 3 m in length and 1, 8 m - height.































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