What particularly caused the extinction of iconic Ice Age mammals such as the woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth?
It was believed that drastic climate changes killed large mammals called megafauna on a mass scale some 50,000 years ago.
But the latest research from the University of Sydney, the largest of its kind, shows that both climate change and human beings were responsible for wiping them out, the journal Nature reports.
An interdisciplinary research team, involving over 40 academic institutions around the world, studied the extinction of six Ice Age mammals, according to a Sydney statement.
"We found that the large mammals which went extinct in the Ice Age were strongly influenced by changes in climate and habitat, which raises concerns about the impact of future climate change on modern large animal species," said Simon Ho, University's School of Biological Sciences.
For decades, scientists have been debating the reasons behind the mass extinction of
the Late Quaternary period. It caused the loss of a third of the large mammal species in Eurasia, two thirds of the species in North America.
Ho says: "Our study indicates that humans played no part in the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros or the musk ox in Eurasia and that their demise can be entirely explained by climate change.
"On the other hand, humans aren't off the hook when it comes to the extinction of the wild horse and the bison in Siberia. Along with climate change, our ancestors share responsibility for these megafaunal extinctions," concludes Ho.