Martin, Paul S., Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America. 2005. Univ. of California Press.

Review by Mike Dubrasich

Twilight of the Mammoths is a first-person account of one of the greatest scientific discoveries of modern times, and that statement deserves some explanation.

In the main, Twilight of the Mammoths is about the Overkill Hypothesis. The end of the Ice Age saw the extinction of mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, saber-toothed tigers, camels, horses, and all told, over 40 species and 30 genera of large mammals in the Western Hemisphere. These extinctions took place more or less contemporaneously with the arrival of the first humans, the Clovis People, approximately 13,000 calendar years ago. Dr. Martin hypothesizes that the two phenomena were linked, that paleo hunters decimated large mammal populations in North and South America within a few centuries (and perhaps in as little as 70 years after people first arrived).

But Twilight of the Mammoths is so much more than that.

The Overkill Hypothesis is a crude substitute for a much larger concept. Paul Martin should more properly be known as the Father of the Anthropogenic Predation Theory, which holds that human beings have been impacting wildlife populations for millennia, on all continents (except Antarctica), much as the Anthropogenic Fire Theory contends that humans have also been impacting terrestrial vegetation everywhere for a long time, too.

At their cores, the Anthropogenic Theories are an extension of Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. The principal selective agent in nature has been human beings for as long as we have existed on this planet. People have been driving natural selection, and hence evolution, wherever we have lived (13,000 years in the Western Hemisphere, 25,000+ years in Europe, 40,000+ years in Australia, 50,000+ years in Asia, and 100,000+ years in Africa).

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December 1, 2007 | 1 Comment | Topic:  Wildlife History