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Extinction of ancient herbivores fueled wildfires

Tyler Faith NHMU

Despite its name, the ice age saw its fair share of wildfires, particularly towards the end.

Humans were partly to blame, as was likely a catastrophic comet that burned some 10% of the earth’s surface almost 13,000 years ago. But Faith and his colleagues found another surprising culprit: the disappearance of large grazers.

“As these ancient giants became extinct, there was nothing left to keep grasses under control,” Faith said, standing in front of a few of Utah’s own long-gone ice age behemoths: the short-faced bear, the mammoth, and the ancient bison. “Instead of mammoths and mastodons, fire became the ultimate herbivore.”

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Last Updated: 1/5/22