Evidence is presented in a variety of media by Paul S. Martin as his 'Overkill hypothesis', particularly in Twilight of the Mammoths.

The internet describes this idea as 'controversial.' Other than the works of Paul Martin, what evidence has been presented supporting this hypothesis?

  • $\begingroup$ Please provide more information for your question. Do you have a source that presents this hypothesis or some other reason to believe so. Please indicate some evidence of prior attempts to research/answer your own question $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2016 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist I have read Paul Martin and generally agree with him. However, I haven't found any other semi-credible popular science books that agree with him. I asked the question in the general sense to see what other evidence was out there, preferably in readable summary forms. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Dec 30, 2016 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ Mr. Martin has forgotten one glaring problem with this hypothesis--TIMING. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2016 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ extinctions rarely have a single cause however humans could very well have been a contributing factor. Intelligence makes for some destructive hunting methods like setting a grass fire to kill a herd of animals or driving half a herd off a cliff to eat only a few of them. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 12, 2017 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ Mammoth much like elephants are believed to be particularly vulnerable, the breed slowly and have few natural predators, the introduction of just one new species of predator (and in humans case a very successful one) can be devastating to a species like that. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 12, 2017 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


Only in islands can this hypothesis be supported. But islands are NOT continents, and that raises problems with the hypothesis. The most inconspicuous of which is timing.

In Australia, the gap between man setting foot on Australia and the extinction of Australia's megafauna was 17,000 years. Too long.

Man left Africa and set foot in Eurasia more or less than 50,000 years ago, yet the extinction of Eurasia's megafauna happened 10,000 years ago. Too long.

The oldest discovered American, "Eve", was discovered in a cave in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and dated to be 13,500 years old, 500 years older than the supposed time that man crossed Beringia. This could imply that man crossed Beringia at a far earlier date, yet the dating of the extinction of America's megafauna coincided with that in Eurasia. Too long.

There's also into consideration the Younger Dryas climate chaos phenomenon, which did coincide with the extinction of the 30 genera of Pleistocene megafauna, a handful of microfauna and plants, not to mention the Clovis culture itself.

If man was the cause of the extinction event, the gap between man setting foot in new lands and the megafaunal extinction would've been a few generations, not a few millennia.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any concrete evidence or citations to support your answer? I confess I know nothing about the hypothesis being described, so I can't judge the validity of your answer. As it stands now, the answer is completely opinion-based. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Dec 31, 2016 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ why only a few generations? do you think humans would instantly fill the land mass? A lag is to be expected since humans need to reach semi-isolated areas and hunting an organism to extinction is not going to happen instantaneously, it took humans many generations to cause even the uncontroversial extinctions. Then you have to consider whether humans are the final cause or just so severely weaken the population than something else can easily take them out. Saying it took too long is just misleading unless you can quantify how long it "should" take. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 12, 2017 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @John Look no further than the damage done in the 19th and 20th centuries with modern megafauna like bison, rhinoceros and antelope. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2017 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ none of which are extinct, even with firearms, so even under perfect circumstances it is not fast, unless the starting populations are tiny. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 12, 2017 at 23:08

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