Institute of Archaeology


Tom Dwyer

Reconstructing the ecology and extinction dynamics of Late Quaternary megafauna in China.

Portrait of Tom Dwyer

Email: thomas.dwyer.15@ucl.ac.uk
Section: Archaeological Sciences


Reconstructing the ecology and extinction dynamics of Late Quaternary megafauna in China.

Understanding the species diversity and structure of past ecosystems and the extent to which they have been affected through time by human activities and climate change is essential to understand the magnitude and pattern of human impacts on biodiversity through time, in order to make predictive hypotheses for modern conservation science. Extensive research has been conducted on the past diversity of Quaternary megafauna, and the chronology and pattern of megafaunal turnover, for Europe, North America and Australia, with the aim of understanding if humans or climate (or another reason) was the principle cause for the mass extinctions that wiped out large, well known species such as Megaloceros giganteus (giant deer) or Mammuthus primigenius (woolly mammoth). China is currently a world hotspot for conservation across numerous biomes and is a country with many mammal species at risk due to habitat destruction and overexploitation. Despite this, there are limited region-wide studies aimed at developing a better understanding of what was happening to ecosystems during the Late Pleistocene.

My research aims to gather together all existing data on the past spatiotemporal distributions of large mammal species in China across the Late Pleistocene, to reconstruct past distributions of living and extinct megafaunal species and document how these changed over time. From this baseline I will then compare these ranges with temporal correlates such as climate change events and timing of known human evolutionary and demographic changes and examine how these external drivers match changes in faunal composition. It will also be possible to compare and link faunal changes to other palaeoenvironmental indices, such as past vegetation changes mapped through pollen data and changes to local environments highlighted by assemblages of micromammals from archaeological sites.


  • BSc (Hons), Geology, Birkbeck College (University of London), 2017
  • MSc Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology, UCL, 2019