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, 102 (33), 11763-8

Asynchronous Extinction of Late Quaternary Sloths on Continents and Islands

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Asynchronous Extinction of Late Quaternary Sloths on Continents and Islands

David W Steadman et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

Whatever the cause, it is extraordinary that dozens of genera of large mammals became extinct during the late Quaternary throughout the Western Hemisphere, including 90% of the genera of the xenarthran suborder Phyllophaga (sloths). Radiocarbon dates directly on dung, bones, or other tissue of extinct sloths place their "last appearance" datum at approximately 11,000 radiocarbon years before present (yr BP) or slightly less in North America, approximately 10,500 yr BP in South America, and approximately 4,400 yr BP on West Indian islands. This asynchronous situation is not compatible with glacial-interglacial climate change forcing these extinctions, especially given the great elevational, latitudinal, and longitudinal variation of the sloth-bearing continental sites. Instead, the chronology of last appearance of extinct sloths, whether on continents or islands, more closely tracks the first arrival of people.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
The Americas, showing continental fossil sites mentioned in the text.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
AMS 14C-dated bones of Neocnus comes, an extinct sloth from Haiti. (AC) Associated left distal (A) and proximal (B) ulna and right humerus (C), UF 170123, dated to 4,391 ± 42 yr BP. (D) Right pelvis, UF 170210, dated to 4,486 ± 39 yr BP.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Oxygen isotopic composition of carbonate shell material (ostracods or gastropods) for Lake Valencia (Venezuela) and Lake Miragoāne (Haiti). Image was redrawn from ref. .

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