The Quaternary extinction events were extinctions of large mammals, birds, and reptiles that occurred in the second half of the last ice age. Or, to use the technical term, glacial period.
These extinctions occurred at different times on different continents:
Australia, Europe, Asia, And Africa: ~ 45,000 BC
North And South America: ~9,000 BC
Australia: an estimated 90% of large animal species went extinct. Including many large marsupials, large monotremes (egg-laying mammals), and large flightless birds.
Europe: an estimated 30% of large animal species went extinct. Including Wooly Rhinos, Mammoths, and Neanderthals.
Sub-Saharan Africa: an estimated 5% of large animal species went extinct. Relatively small compared to other regions. Still, this included unique creatures, including a giraffe-like creature called Sivatherium.
Asia: the extinction rate was minimal but a few species still did go extinct. Including the Denisovans (a neanderthal-like bipedal primate) and a species of tapir.
North America: an estimated 70% of large animal species went extinct. Including the ground sloth (a bear-sized sloth), wooly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, short-faced bears, cave lions, the american cheetah, and the mastodon.
South America: an estimated 80% of large animal species went extinct. Including Glyptodon (a car-sized armadillo), south american horses, south american mastodons, and south american ground sloths.
What Caused The Quaternary Extinctions?
There are two main explanations here...human activity and prehistoric climate change. Recently, the prehistoric climate change hypothesis has fallen out of favor. This is because the theory has a number of holes in it, and the human activity theory is nearly perfect.
Arguments Against The Climate Change Hypothesis:
1. No significant climate change occurred during the extinctions in Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa (~45,000 years ago) and no further extinctions come when climate change does occur ~35,000 years later.
2. No extinction events have been linked to climate change at the beginning or ending of previous ice ages so why this one? Other ice ages contained even more extreme climate change.
3. If climate change were the culprit, you would expect extinctions of smaller animals as well.
Arguments For The Climate Change Hypothesis:
1. The extinctions in North and South america coincide with the end of the last ice age. At this time there were increasing temperatures and sea levels.
2. Many of the animals that went extinct were designed for a cold climate and increasing temperatures could have killed them off.
Arguments Against The Human Activity Hypothesis:
1. Few fossils of animals just prior to their extinction contain human-inflicted wounds.
2. The small population of humans at the time would be unable to cause these dramatic extinctions.
Arguments For The Human Activity Hypothesis:
1. *All* of the extinction events exactly coincide with human population of the regions where the extinctions occur.
2. Humans today are extremely destructive to the environment and its native species. Even hunter-gatherer tribes of small numbers can wreak massive damage upon ecosystems.
3. Humans have a tendency to hunt large animals, rather than small ones. Explaining why these extinctions are almost entirely limited to megafauna.
Do you see why the climate change hypothesis has been largely abandoned?
It's also notable how flawed the case for climate change is. Although the extinctions in North and South america do coincide with the end of the last ice age, it also coincides with human migration into those regions.
The delay between extinction events was due to the difficulty humans would have had reaching the Americas. Such difficulties wouldn't have hampered migration into Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia.
Although a land-bridge existed between modern Russia and Alaska, it was frozen-over so severely that there would be no food along any potential migration route. Humans would have starve to death before reaching the Americas.
However, as the last ice age ended and the ice began to melt, the land-bridge became briefly fertile before finally being submerged by rising sea-levels. But in that short window, migration into the Americas became possible. Modern Native Americans are descended from these original migrants.
There is also the problem of the lack of fossils containing signs of human hunting (though certain fossils do exist). You must bear in mind, not all extinctions caused by humans are directly caused by over-hunting. Destroying a single key species could potentially destroy an entire ecosystem, thus causing many extinctions.
Furthermore, we are much more likely to find fossils that died through natural causes. Humans, in general, tend to use much of their kills, even going as far as to use bones in structures. Natural processes are just more likely to preserve a species as a fossil.
What Does This Have To Do With The Bible?
Genesis 3:17 "Cursed is the ground because of you" (To Adam after his sin)
This is evidence in favor of the bible's claim that humans, particularly early humans, were extremely depraved and abusive to the land. So much so that God had to wipe out early humans with a flood. Yet they continued this activity afterward, even when they had been scattered all over the world at the tower of babel.
Even tens of thousands of years later during Abraham's time, people were still depraved enough that God had to wipe out entire cities to prevent the sin from spreading like a malignant tumor. At Sodom and Gomorrah, nearly every man was a rapist. It wasn't until after Moses, and then Jesus, that the earth began to recover from their innate sin.
The ground truly is cursed because of us.