RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pleistocene overkill confirmed

Peaceful indigenous people, living in harmony with their environment...

Uh, no. A study just published has confirmed the unfashionable but extremely plausible theory called Pleistocene Overkill. In summary, as our ancestors left Africa and spread out, first over Eurasia, Australia, and then to North and South America, they slaughtered and most probably devoured most of the the large animals. The totals are Africa 18, Asia 38, Australasia 26, Europe 19, North America 43 and South America 62. The extinctions correlate strongly with the arrival of hominins, and are far better correlated with our arrival than with climatic events.

The relationship between hominin palaeobiogeography and extinction magnitude is striking, with universally low extinctions in sub-Saharan Africa (maximum 13%), where hominins and the megafauna have long coexisted, but widespread exceptionally high extinction in Australia and the Americas, where modern humans were the first hominin present.
So if you think it's a shame there are no saber-tooth tigers, dire wolves, or marsupial lions any more, blame Native Americans or Australian Aboriginals. On the other hand, if your folk hailed from Europe, don't be smug; they wiped out pretty much everything, including mammoths, cave lions, wooly rhinos, and the magnificent Elasmotherium, a rhino-like beast as big as an elephant. Africans had the lowest body count, but probably only because the big beasts co-evolved with humans on that continent and learned to run away.

I still think Pleistocene Overkill would be a great name for a heavy metal band.

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