In less than 130,000 years, humans have sawed off the most evolutionarily distinct branches from our family tree.
The story of mammals is one of self-destruction. They first arose roughly 200 million years ago, and after eons spent scurrying in the shadow of the dinosaurs, they finally cut loose and evolved into a breathtaking variety of shapes and sizes, including the largest creatures to ever exist. And after all that, it took barely 100,000 years for one relatively young member of the group—us—to bring everything crashing down.
Throughout our existence, humans and other hominins have hunted other mammals, first for meat, and then for pelts, trophies, trade, and more. Since the last Ice Age, more than 300 species have gone extinct, including mammoths, woolly rhinos, and thylacines. A quarter of the remaining 5,500 species are endangered, thanks to one species: us.