Catalysis Meeting

Integrating datasets to investigate megafaunal extinction in the late quaternary

PI(s): Jessica L Metcalf (University of Adelaide)
Rob Guralnick (University of Colorado)
Alan Cooper (University of Adelaide)
Start Date: 1-Nov-2009
End Date: 31-Oct-2010

The end of the Pleistocene (roughly 60,000 - 11,000 years ago) was characterized by the selective extinction of much of the worldÂ’s megafauna (terrestrial vertebrates > 44kg), including most of the large herbivores and carnivores from North America, Beringia, and South America1-4. Large-scale extinctions are an important but still poorly understood evolutionary phenomenon and they do not always appear to correspond with major climatic or stratigraphic boundaries. As a consequence, there is great interest in how such extinctions occurred in the past and how they might occur again in the future, especially the mechanisms by which ecological systems rapidly become severely disrupted. The late Pleistocene extinctions provide an ideal example for investigation since the events are very recent, allowing the application of a variety of dating, modeling, and genetic analyses. Advances in molecular analysis and interpretation (including ancient DNA), the development of paleoclimatic, paleoenvironmental and archaeological databases, and refinements in climate niche modeling provide new tools and insights with which to study the timing, spatial patterns and environmental conditions of the extinctions. This meeting will bring together experts from a wide range of scientific fields to present geo-referenced datasets from across the world, and to apply new data synthesis and analysis approaches. The major goal will be to develop a conceptual and practical framework allowing the integration of data sets from disparate fields to investigate how large animals around the world became extinct.