Young adults, students of the Pleistocene, and ordinary readers will find, “Ice Age Extinctions: Skylark Holmes and Dr. Janet Watson Investigate; ‘The Case of the Arboricidal Megaherbivores’” a fun and accessible introduction to the mystery of Pleistocene extinction.
Scientific investigators; Skylark Holmes (great grand niece of the famous detective) and her colleague, Dr. Janet Watson, explore existing theories and the data that supports them, they find clues that lead them to an entirely new theory of extinction. Their new theory uses evidence from sources as diverse as ecological change from World War II trucks driving on tundra to elephant research in Africa. In this scientific investigation, as in a traditional detective story, the reader is asked to consider a wide variety of apparently unconnected clues which the detective pulls together in a convincing story of how and why the crime was committed. Eighteen thousand years ago, at the height of the last ice age, North America is a parkland with mixed trees and grass. Mammoths are being killed by massive lions and sabertooth cats. There are bison as big as elephants, beavers as big as bears, and the short faced bear is almost twice the size of a grizzly bear. They merit their name - megafauna. Eight thousand years later the ice caps are wasting away. Paleoindians are using beautiful fluted points to hunt bison, mammoths and other mega-fauna in parklands of North America. Their networked culture stretches from Maine to Tierra del Fuego. They work little - about 8 hours per week - and live well. Game and vegetation is available for the taking. It is a world of plenty - Eden. A thousand years later, the ice caps, horses, mammoths, other megafauna, the carnivores that ate them, and the paleoindians, all are gone. Climate is like today’s. The parklands have changed to belts of closed canopy forest on the coasts separated by a vast grassland. The few people we find live in small isolated bands. Their stone points are less developed than the paleoindians’. Who are these people? Why did the pattern of vegetation change? Why are bison and beavers so small? Where are the horse, mastodon, mammoth, and the big cats who hunted them? These are the mysteries of the Pleistocene. Understanding the hypotheses of extinction – overkill, second order predation, climate change, or some combination of these them – doesn’t need great scholarship. It can be grasped by ordinary people with ordinary logic – as in a detective story. This use of the genre was pioneered by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld in, “The Evolution of Physics” (1938). "The scientific investigator, like the detective, follows clews which suggest solutions to the problem at hand. The solutions are tested and rejected, and new clews are found for the scientist/ detective to follow. Often seemingly perfect theories have to be discarded as new evidence comes to light. Over time, more and more of the picture emerges and the scientist can make better and better guesses about what is important to include and what is unimportant" For the student of Pleistocene extinctions this mystery story collects and examines the evidence as well as presenting it in a more accessible form. For the lay person it introduces the issues, and uses the Pleistocene extinctions as an example of scientific thinking. For those interested in systems it applies the notion of feedback and dynamical thinking to a scientific puzzle. And for system’s thinkers interested in cybernetics it is an example of an autopoetic system: the animal produces the environment and the environment produces the animal - they are coupled and co-evolve. The author developed the second order predation theory, and tested it with the first computer simulation of competing hypotheses using the same assumptions and starting values. It is the only computer model that compares hypotheses and simulates combinations: climate change with overkill and second order predation.