Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why there are no hyenas in Europe

Wherever possible I like to add links to papers that discuss topics we cover in class. The reason for this is that you can see just how people go about some of the studies I mention.

In the first class I mentioned the impact of early humans on Pleistocene faunas around the world. A paper in Quaternary Science Reviews by Sara Varela et al. last month looked whether changing climate alone could explain the disappearance of hyenas from Europe.

Were the Late Pleistocene climatic changes responsible for the disappearance of the European spotted hyena populations? Hindcasting a species geographic distribution across time 

Climatic conditions in Southern Europe during the Late Pleistocene remained within the spotted hyena climatic tolerance. Hence, climate changes could have directly affected the Northern distribution of the species during the last glaciations. However, climate change alone is not sufficient to have caused the disappearance of the spotted hyena populations in Southern Europe. That is, other factors, such as prey abundance or human ecological impacts, in addition to climatic change, are needed to completely account for extinction of the European spotted hyena.

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