Of all the continents, Africa was the least affected by the Late Pleistocene extinction (Elias &Schreve 2007). Whilst Africa contains 42 genera of megafauna; only 7 died out during the last 100kyr. This blog will explore reasons why African megafauna remained largely untouched by forces that drove extinctions in other continents.
The genera that became extinct in Africa during the last 100 kyr include a genus of Pleistocene elephant (Elephas), a genus of African buffalo (Parmularius) and a genus of modern cattle (Bos). Consequently African megafauna only suffered a loss of about 14% of their genera in the last 100kys (Elias & Schreve 2007).
A number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain why Africa suffered such few losses. Firstly, humans evolved and coincided with megafauna in Africa. Homo sapiens lived and evolved in Africa before they spread to other continents around 200,000 BP. Many believe that this co-evolution was a major factor which ensured the survival of megafauna during this period. It is also believed that megafauna were able to adapt their behaviour to withstand human hunting practices. Similarly, Africa had favourable climatic conditions which could support a high diversity of species. This ensured that species numbers grew to a level which allowed them not become extinct. As well as this, the glacial-interglacial transition was less severe than other continents. This provided greater climatic stability for the species living in Africa, especially those that were unable to adapt to changing environmental conditions,and could easily find refuge spots. Finally, early Homo sapiens in Africa had primitive hunting technology compared to hunter gatherers of North America. This is because the Clovis hunters of North America developed more advanced technology such as stone points, which might explain why extinction was rapid in this continent. This is reinforced by Barnowsky (2004) who stated that sophisticated technology is a key driver of over kill.
|Clovis Hunting Tools|
Overall, I believe the combination of these factors explains why African megafauna was least affected by the late Pleistocene extinction, and consequently suffered few losses compared to other continents.