Drivers of Late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions are relevant to modern conservation policy in a world of growing human population density, climate change, and faunal decline. Traditional debates tend toward global solutions, blaming either dramatic climate change or dispersals of Homo sapiens to new regions. Inherent limitations to archaeological and paleontological data sets often require reliance on scant, poorly resolved lines of evidence. However, recent developments in scientific technologies allow for more local, context-specific approaches. In the present article, we highlight how developments in five such methodologies (radiocarbon approaches, stable isotope analysis, ancient DNA, ancient proteomics, microscopy) have helped drive detailed analysis of specific megafaunal species, their particular ecological settings, and responses to new competitors or predators, climate change, and other external phenomena. The detailed case studies of faunal community composition, extinction chronologies, and demographic trends enabled by these methods examine megafaunal extinctions at scales appropriate for practical understanding of threats against particular species in their habitats today.
Open access publication.