The suggestion of it being ‘generally severe’ is well known, but underwater fossils in the Bahamas underlines the impact of humans on animals to a point where not even the Ice Age reached.
- In 2004, a diver found 5,000 fossils that revealed 95 different species, dated back over 10,000 years ago
- Among them 39 went extinct, with 17 disappearing due to climate change, and 22 to human activity
- Researchers examined the samples since 2007 to understand why human presence does not allow animals to adapt
- Their research will continue in December, 2015, when they will revisit the islands
Researchers from the Arizona State University and the University of Florida have studied an incredible number of fossils found in the Sawmill Sink on Abaco Islands, in the Bahamas. The flooded sinkhole has proven itself to be a graveyard of fossils, protected and preserved flawlessly through time. It provided exceptional finds of underwater fossils at depths of over 20 feet below the surface.
Further within the clear water, at depths between 15 to 20 feet lays a layer of toxic hydrate sulfide that blocks light, oxygen, bacteria, and fungus, but is also highly dangerous to humans. Back in 2004, expert cave diver Brian Kakuk, manage to pass by the corrosive layer, and unearth an astounding number of 5,000 fossils, among which he found 95 different species of vertebrates.
The samples have been studied since 2007. Scientists have now reached a few conclusions about the amazing remains dated back to the last Ice Age, between 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Back then, the waters around the Abaco Islands were 300 feet lower, covering 15 times less land area than today, with drier and cooler temperatures.
This allowed researchers to understand how many species thrived, went extinct or possibly resorted to cross breeding due to depleting numbers.
They discovered that 39 of the species found are, in fact, extinct today. Among them 17 species of birds disappeared due to climate change, but the rest of 22 species of mammals, reptiles and birds managed to survive for the next thousands of years. That’s until humans migrated over 1,000 years ago.
According to lead author of the study and ornithology curator, Dave Steadman, these species were survivors of harsh conditions, warming temperatures, and rising sea levels, but they faltered in the face of humans. They could not successfully adapt to the new invaders, which raises an important question.
The researchers asked what is it about humans that makes it so difficult for species to withstand. Habitat destruction, and hunting were considered among the factors that makes us so dangerous to wildlife.
The fossils found offered a stunning picture of an ecosystem from thousands of years ago. Where, were it not for us, some species might still be inhabiting. Among them count the Cuban crocodile, Albury’s tortoise, rock iguanas, and several others.
These were species that successfully passed through the environmental changes after the last Ice Age, but vanished due to human-caused activity. The research is aimed to provide better answers to how current, remaining species will react today, and in the future, to a combination of both damaging elements.
The team of researchers will continue their studies in December, receiving a grant of $375,000 to further evaluate the possible outcomes, and past factors that led to the extinction of several animals.
Image source: buzz-inn.in