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What Happened to the Woolly Mammoth?



What force was great enough to wipe from Earth not only the woolly mammoth but all the other megafauna that once roamed the planet, from the saber toothed tiger to the giant sloth? These giant beasts all vanished from the fossil record around the same time, about 15 thousand years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene. Many scientists believe the mass megafauna extinctions were caused by hunting and/or a sudden change in climate. This radio broadcast explores the theory that the extinctions were caused by a highly lethal infectious disease. The scientist investigating this hyperdisease theory by analyzing woolly mammoth remains from Siberia, is trying to isolate the super virus he believes wiped out these furry beasts. The broadcast discusses how likely it may be that a virus can cause the total devastation of extinction, by being both highly infectious and lethal at the same time; whether humans carried a virus with them to the New World which later jumped to large animals; and the difficulty of proving a virus found within animal remains was lethal, as opposed to one of many harmless viruses. The broadcast is about 29 minutes in length. Educational levels: General public

Topics: Climatology, Human geography, Paleontology
Publisher: BBC Radio 4, Frontiers Radio Series
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