The Pleistocene Extinction
The Pleistocene Extinction is one of the lesser extinctions and a relatively-recent one. It is well known that the North American, and to some degree Eurasian, megafauna disappeared toward the end of the last glaciation period. The extinction appears to have happened in a relatively-restricted time period between 10,000–12,000 years ago. In North America, the losses were quite dramatic and included the woolly mammoths (last dated about 4,000 years ago in an isolated population), mastodons, giant beavers, giant ground sloths, saber-toothed cats, and the North American camel, to name just a few . The possibility that the rapid extinction of these large animals was caused by over-hunting was first suggested in the 1900s; research into this hypothesis continues today. It seems probable that over-hunting was a factor in extinctions in many regions of the world.
Giant ground sloth
Giant ground sloths, relatives of the living South American tree sloths, lived across much of North America. The giant sloths disappeared, along with the mammoths, mastodons, and many other large animals, at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch.
In general, the timing of the Pleistocene extinctions correlated with the arrival of humans and not with climate-change events, which is the main competing hypothesis for these extinctions. The extinctions began in Australia about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, 10,000 to 20,000 years after the arrival of humans in the area. A marsupial lion, a giant one-ton wombat, and several giant kangaroo species disappeared. In North America, the extinctions of almost all of the large mammals occurred 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, several thousand years after the first evidence of humans in North America. All that are left are the smaller mammals such as bears, elk, moose, and cougars. Finally, on many remote oceanic islands, the extinctions of many species occurred with the coincidence of human arrivals. Not all of the islands had large animals, but when there were large animals, they were lost. Madagascar was colonized about 2,000 years ago; the large mammals (prosimians) that lived there became extinct. Eurasia and Africa do not show this pattern, but they also did not experience a recent arrival of humans. Humans arrived in Eurasia hundreds of thousands to over one million years ago, after the origin of the species in Africa. This topic remains an area of active research and hypothesizing. It seems clear that even if climate played a role, human hunting was an additional factor in the extinctions.