My colleague and friend, Dr. Mike Cove reached out to me to have a discussion about something he had been thinking about for some time: how mammals of the past impact mammals today. He was especially interested on the impacts of mastodons on today’s smaller mammals like rodents and small carnivores. Because I researched African forest elephants for my Ph.D., he wanted to get my thoughts on this topic and thought it would be a cool idea for the podcast!
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Over tens of thousands of years ago, our world looked very different. Here in the United States, our land was dominated by mega fauna like mastodons, giant sloths and armadillos, and saber-toothed tigers. In this podcast we talked about how the mere presence of such huge animals affected our landscape today.
Mike is the curator of Mammalogy at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Specifically we chat about:
- What’s going on with some of these smaller mammal species? Why are they in decline?
- How smaller, disturbed habitats are made and how many are overlooked compared to “pristine” forests
- How large herbivores like elephants, bison, and elk change the landscape and what their loss means for smaller animals
- The role of elephants, especially forest elephants in changing the forest: how they create light gaps and help forest vegetation grow
- Should we actually bring large herbivores like elephants back to the United States to restore ecosystem processes? Yes, this is a real proposal by scientists called “Pleistocene rewilding”
- How restoring apex predators in the Eastern US would help our forests
- and MORE!
Resources and Sources Mentioned in Mastodons Impact on Mice with Mammalogist Mike Cove:
Stephanie Schuttler is a wildlife biologist with 17 years of experience in mammal ecology and conservation, education, and outreach. Read her inspirational story, “My Unexpected Journey Into Science” to find out how she went from the daughter of a jeweler to a Ph.D. in wildlife biology. Feel free to contact Stephanie here.