Indian animal kingdom just the same over 200,000 years!

Indian animal kingdom just the same over 200,000 years!

Most modern-day Indian animals were very much around between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago at a time when ancestors of today’s Indians were hunter-gatherers, scientists have found while analysing Deccan fossils.

The animals, ranging from leopards, dogs and rhinoceroses to horses and boars, did not disappear from the earth in the subsequent thousands of years, suggesting that they survived the Ice Age, at least one catastrophic volcanic eruption and smart human hunters. In Europe, north and south Americas and Australia, many of those pre-historic animals became extinct around the same time, owing to changing climate and human pressure.

In the absence of adequate studies from the Indian sub-continent, scholars assumed a similar trend for Indian animals. The fossil find in the Billasurgam cave complex in Kurnool district, however, proved everybody wrong.

Scientists found neatly stacked fossils of 21 mammals, out of which 20 are present in modern-day India. They include the jungle cat, leopard, mongoose, dog, fox, langur, horse, rhinoceros, rabbit, porcupine, wild boar and the hedgehog.

“The only species, which is not seen in India currently is a type of primate (a relative of the baboon). It is seen only in East Africa nowadays,” said Ravi Korisettar, professor of archaeology at Karnatak University, Dharwad and one of the researchers associated with the project.

This is the first report on mammalian fossils in the Indian subcontinent ranging over the last 200,000 years, which were properly dated following the sedimentation sequence.

“One of the most significant findings is that a variety of animals survived through major fluctuations of climate over the past 200,000 years. Normally, we might expect environmental fluctuations over time eventually leading to the turnover of animal populations, but this is not what we found,” team leader Michael D Petragalia from the Oxford University told Deccan Herald.

Despite the surge of human populations in India over the past 50,000 years, research implies that burgeoning groups of hunter-gatherers did not over-exploit animal populations, driving them to extinction. It is contrary to other parts of the world where human contribution to mammal extinctions is suggested.

“Humans and animals co-existed over the last 30-40,000 years,” said Korisettar, who currently occupies the Dr DC Pavate Chair for Art and Archaeology at the university. The two earliest pieces of evidence of human settlement in India were found in Tamil Nadu (1.5 million years ago) and Karnataka around 1.2 million years ago.

The findings were published in the April 7 issue of the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

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