Last Extinction

Last Extinction

2009, Science  -   32 Comments
Ratings: 8.43/10 from 30 users.

Last ExtinctionApproximately 13,000 years after the mighty mammoth and 35 other groups of mammals vanished from North America, some scientists pose the controversial theory that a massive impact from space may have heralded their demise.

For the past four decades, experts have been at odds over what causes this mass extinction. While mainstream scholars pose that the changing climate or ancient hunters were likely to blame for driving the beasts into oblivion, others believe that a comet from deep space may have broken up over North America.

This would have caused a devastating series of explosions that decimated the landscape, and wiped out animal populations.

The proof, they claim, lies in the discovery of a mysterious black mat layer at over fifty sites across the continent. The materials found in the "black mats" include rare, microscopic "nanodiamonds," which are thought to be the product of extraterrestrial impact. In this documentary, filmmakers pose that perhaps all three theories share an common element of truth.

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32 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Human-47

    West Coast USA sites have a fairly continuous unbroken line of occupation. Its east of the rockies you literally get centuries of human free land. So one could assume that 'native americans' repopulated from this west of the rockies population. Although there is some evidence recently that the Appalachians were also spared the disaster. So maybe 3 points of re populations, west of rockies, the Appalachians and the southern desserts.

  2. Liesl

    Sabu, the clovis culture wasn't "All native north americans". Of course "native americans" still exist. Just not the Clovis culture.

  3. L0LAW0NKA

    How long has man walked the earth-- we might also be due for an extinction of our species, but based on the pattern, we still have a long way to go. I only wish we could appreciate life more thoroughly instead of rushing through it or trying to destroy it. You saw in the dinosaurs and now with those mammals-- a pattern of ultimate destruction and no second chance. Which is why it's even more important in our times to live and enjoy your life.

  4. David

    They may find another clue in the black mats themselves. What kind of climate conditions would there have to be for them to form? What exactly are they composed of? If algae, as the man said, how did algae come to be all over the place? Was there a great deal of intermittent rain? Can't wait for more in this investigation.

  5. David

    They should have addressed the fact that before the era of this extintion event Clovis points are to be found across the southern U.S.. After this era only the points identified as Folsom are found. Nor do the two technologies appear to be related, meaning that the people here at the time of impact were later replaced by an unrelated people. There was another doc I saw that hypothesized the clovis and solutrean points are of related technology which would mean that the people wiped out by the impact came originally from Europe. After their extiction, they were replaced (Folsom points) by people from Asia.

  6. John McKenzie

    Climate change, as what can occur from a meteorite impact effects "lower" life forms in a much more dramatic way. Animals that cannot easily adapt to changing environments do not always make it through these events. Humans, for better or worse are highly adaptive we have and still utilize a wide variety of food stuffs and habitats. Mammoths and giant sloths not so much, once the ecological niche in which they reside dwindles or disappears they cannot maintain there way of life and thus die off. My spelling sucks I know and really don't care, substance over form.

  7. Gene Dandy

    I don't understand how a comet could kill all the large mammals but not kill all the humans too. Why don't they address this? It's such an obvious question.

    1. BeardHero420

      Ok. Imagine this event wiped out MOST of each large mammalian species at the time - including humans. The humans that were left won't have many berries to eat, so they were basically on a mad dash to hunt these remaining animals for food before they all died of starvation. Put that formula into effect and it's a recipe for large herbivore extinction.

      Secondly, this impact was probably nowhere near the magnitude of the dino-killer 65myo. The biggest cause of the loss of life was probably due mostly to the ash, debris, and lack of sunlight (probably for years afterwards).

      So really, my 0.02 is that the impact set the stage, and the humans and (mostly) the environment finished them off. Sounds logical to me.

      And remember, Humans are actually pretty adaptable to catastrophe. Always have been, always will be.

    2. Tom Carberry

      It probably did kill all the humans, but most human scientists close their eyes to this obvious fact.

      Human myths across the globe talk about planets attacking the earth and killing almost all people. The Noah type myth exists across the globe.

      Another poster pointed out that before this event time people used the Clovis point, but after ward, they all used the Folsom point, a completely different technology. And probably completely different people.

      We better evidence in Europe that shows a complete genetic replacement some time a few thousand years BCE.

      We know hardly anything about our past more than a few thousand years ago. Only about 3 to 4 thousand years BCE, the Sahara had lakes, rivers, and streams and harbored huge populations of humans and animals. No one knows what happened to change it into the Sahara Desert.

  8. ProudinUS

    Did you know they found one of the larger pearls on the planet in the San Bernadino Mountains of my home state.......7000ft UP?

    1. lakhotason

      Damn. Mountain climbing oysters.

    2. dewflirt

      Like sisyphus :)

    3. lakhotason

      AHA! It isn't mountain climbing oysters - it was sisyphus pushing a giant pearl around!

    4. dewflirt

      Or a very tiny Sisyphus :)

    5. Guest

      I couldn't find a word about that anywhere, by the way...the claim for the largest pearl goes to The Pearl of Lao Tsu, weighs 14 pounds, hard to set that one on a necklace.


  9. Howard

    You have an excellent attitude. I, too, have decided to live forever. So far, So good.

  10. KsDevil

    Hmm. So an ateroid may have expoded over North America, burning trees, destroying an environment that supported a more diverse wildlife, killed the animals that couldn't adapt, and then was replaced by a less diverse environment which taught the natives a lesson in living with nature, not destroying it. Then along came the europeans and the whole thing started over again. But that's just my expansion on the documentary.


    well that was just great. i enjoyed this documentary- i loved the presentation and excellent quality.
    BUT did wish they were able to come with more answers, now i have more questions. nanodiamonds are definitely cool but they still did not answer the question about Elk and such. So sabertooth tiger died, Clovis people died, but Elk and bear survive?
    in all i appreciate the honestly of the documentary, they did not claim to know everything and i enjoyed watching their journey for answers (and was impressed by some of the info they found and techniques they used).
    did i mention nanodiamonds are cool? :p

  12. iPhone 5

    Very touching moment for them when the impact was confirmed by the glacier samples. Honestly , first, I did not believe that the impact would cause the extinction.

  13. 1davideo_kidd1

    Thought-provoking and showing the emotional drive of the scientists involved. Great doc because it showed the debate, gave us some anti views and finished with questions remaining.

    As for the disappearance of the Clovis people, various hypotheses may explain; they left after the wildlife died out, they starved after the same event, they were wiped out by a comet after a nice lunch or a combination or none of these. They left no further record. Perhaps they pressed the 'privacy' tab :)

  14. WTC7

    A really good documentary, science at it's best! it seemed from the start that proponents of humans as the cause of extinction were not standing on a very solid ground anyway. But it was exciting to see how technological advancement helps to obtain answers to such historical puzzles (and a bit of luck too, but luck as a result of a very educated guess though). Very nice!

  15. RickRayFSM

    I can definitely empathize with the emotion of the scientist when he realized his nanodiamond hypothesis was correct ! Great stuff Science is ! I'll say like Richard Dawkins, "If you don't think Science is fascinating then, 'F*** Off'.

  16. Brian

    Regarding the supposed human role in the extinction of megafauna across two continents: how did a few thousand humans in a couple of thousand years manage to kill off all the megafauna in North and South America, where humans did not do this in Africa - where they originated - over hundreds of thousands of years? Yes, the incursion of human hunters might have played a role, but it is hard to see it as the only, or even the most important role in the die-off. And even allowing for this role, it does not explain the black mat layer.

  17. drinker69

    Wooly Mammoths are cool. But I would kill them. I would kill them all.

  18. Robyn318

    My question is why the mega-fauna and the Clovis culture died off and not the deer and elk. Surely the clovis people would have existed on these animals. Good science bus still something major missing.

    1. Sabu Rius

      What do you mean by the "Clovis people died off"? Have you heard of the Native Americans? :)

    2. Robyn318

      Then why did they stop making Clovis points since they seemed to serve them so well previously?

  19. Yeung Xiao

    very good doc. an exploration of how science works. we witness on camera the confirmation of a radical theory, and the fulfillment of someone's dreams.

  20. dmxi

    this would explain a string of questions & point us in a direction where we could connect missing links in our own evolutionary history !this would even help to redate artefacts!

  21. TeganDan

    Fairly new idea I think. And not a bad one. Good quality and worth a watch.
    EDIT: A comet wouldn't get me. I cannot die ;)