Paul Schultz Martin (born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1928 – died in Tucson, Arizona September 13, 2010 ) was a well known American geoscientist at the University of Arizona. He developed the theory that the worldwide pleistocene extinction was caused by overhunting humans. His work bridged the hardworking fields of ecology, anthropology, geosciences, and paleontology.
In 1953, Martin received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from Cornell university. In 1953 and 1956 he completed his master’s and doctorate programs at the university of Michigan and then proceeded with postdoctoral research at the Yale university and the university of Montreal. Martin’s early interest embraced ornithology (birds) and herpetology (reptiles and amphibians). He conducted extensive fieldwork from 1948 to 1953 in Tamaulipas, Mexico. He is considered a pioneer in these areas.
Paul published biogeographys on the birds of the Sierra de Tamaulipas, and the herpetofauna of the Gómez Farias region of Tamaulipas. Unfortunatley, while doing his under grad work. He contacted a case of polio. It did not hold him back. In 1957, he joined the faculty of the University of Arizona, and worked there until his retirement in 1989.
The overkill hypothesis was proposed in 1966. The paper, published in the journal of Nature. Wrote: “The chronology of the extinction — first in Africa, second in America, finally in Madagascar — and the intensity of the extinction — moderate in Africa, heavier in America, and extremely heavy in Madagascar … seems clearly related to the spread of human beings, to their cultural development, and to the vulnerabilities of the faunas they encountered.”
Around 13,000 and 11,000 years ago he theorized newly arriving humans hunted to extinction north America’s ice age large mammals, including ground sloths, camels, mammoths and mastodons, and many other. The theory, was again summarized in: Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America, 2005. Thus controversial and widely examined in academic papers.
Archaeologists Louis Leakey, Donald Grayson, and geosciencest Russell Graham were early critics of the theory . The former focused on disagreements about human capabilities and expansions out of Africa. In geosciences, the focus was on the scale, speed, ecological effects, and biodiversity consequences of climate change during the pleistocene glacial and interglacial periods. Which was also significant. Prior to Martin’s overkill idea, the mainstream scientific understanding of Pleistocene and Holocene extinction causes was climate change and significant events .
Martin later developed an ancillary hypothesis, or the “blitzkrieg model”. Focusing on the speed of human entry, and saturation of a frontier landscape. Similar to the to the ideas of Russian climatologist Mikhail I. Budyko. It relates the sudden demise of large mammal populations on different continents and at different times to the arrival of humans. Martin proposed that as humans migrated from Africa and Eurasia to Australia, the Americas, and the islands of the Pacific. The new arrivals rapidly hunted to extinction the large animals on each continent. And were also armed with newer, stronger and more lethal lithic projectiles.
Martin faced all kinds of criticism. Mainly, scientists claimed earlier dates for human arrival in the Americas. Or, later dates for certain extinct animals. He held his own, and maintained that such claims were the result of faulty scientific analysis. Pointing out that no such dates had yet been independently verified. Back then, only several pre-clovis sites are accepted by most workers. They were mainly Topper, Monte Verde, Paisley Caves and a few others.
Originator of the concept of pleistocene rewilding. By establishing breeding populations of surviving animals from other continents such as llamas, camels, lions and cheetahs. And, introducing populations of animals analogous to extinct species, i.e., elephants for mammoths. Allow extinct north American pleistocene fauna and environments to be restored. According to Vance Haynes, “unlike so many people who get infatuated with their own theories, Paul S Martin spent his professional career inviting criticism. He put together two critical conferences about Pleistocene extinctions, and the volumes that came out of those were pace-setting.”
-Birds and Biogeography of the Sierra de Tamaulipas, an Isolated Pine-Oak Habitat. The Wilson
Bulletin. Vol. 66, No. 1: 38-57. (1954);
-A Biogeography of Reptiles and Amphibians in the Gómez Farias Region, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
Miscellaneous Publications, Museum of Zoology University of Michigan, No. 101: 1-102. (1958);
-Pleistocene Ecology and Biogeography of North America. pages 375-420: in Carl L. Hubbs
(editor). Zoogeography. Publication No. 52. American Association for the Advancement of
Science, Washington, D.C. x, 509 pp. (1958);
-Prehistoric Overkill. pages 75–120: in Paul S. Martin and H. E. Wright Jr. (editors), Pleistocene
Extinctions: The Search for a Cause. Yale University Press. New Haven, Connecticut. 453 pp.
-Prehistoric Overkill: The Global Model. pages 354-403: in Paul S. Martin and Richard G. Klein
(editors). Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution. University of Arizona Press.
Tucson, Arizona. 892 pp. (1989) ISBN 0816511004; and
-Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America. University of
California Press. xv, 250 pp. (2005) ISBN 0-520-23141-4.
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