Tribute to Paul S. Martin
Pleistocene Ecologist (1928 - 2010)

assembled by Connie Barlow

(2010 eulogy by Connie Barlow, in PDF)


PAUL S. MARTIN made major contributions to the fields of Pleistocene ecology and evolutionary ecology. The references section of Donlan and Greene's 2011 tribute to Paul S. Martin contains links to Martin's online available papers, as does the wikipedia entry on Paul S. Martin and sections of this webpage below.

A key early paper by Paul S. Martin summarizing his Overkill Hypothesis appeared in Science in March 1973: "The Discovery of America: the first Americans may have swept the Western Hemisphere and decimated its fauna within 1000 years"

Go directly to the section linking to Tributes by Colleagues of Paul S. Martin.

  • The Paul S. Martin papers (MS 442). Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries.

  • Online Summary and Links to the Paul S. Martin Archive at the University of Arizona Library.

    Includes a biographical introduction to the collection.

  • In 1999, Connie Barlow recorded a 66-minute AUDIO INTERVIEW with Paul at his home in Tucson, AZ (also available on vimeo). There he talked about how he had come to three of his major ideas:

    (1) "Pleistocene Overkill" (theory of why Ice Age megafauna of the Americas suddenly went extinct) begins 2:28 min

    (2) "Pleistocene Rewilding" (then known as "Bring Back" the camels/elephants) begins 38:42 min; focuses on elephants 52:10

    (3) "Ecological Anachronisms" (based on a paper co-authored with Dan Janzen in 1982, titled "Fruits the Gomphotheres Ate") begins 55:30 mins

    Note: This interview was inspired by Connie's reading Paul's classic 1992 essay published in WildEarth, "The Last Entire Earth". In that essay Paul wrote: "To behold the Grand Canyon without thoughts of its ancient sloths, goats, and condors is to be half-blind." A previous interview of Paul by Connie was excerpted on pages 115 and 133-140 in her 1997 book, Green Space, Green Time: The Way of Science. Joe Truett, in his book Circling Back: Chronicle of a Texas River Valley comments on Paul's now-classic essay:
    "Martin's story contains a mystic quality that transcends science, a flavor that seems to have slipped from some ancient human gene pool past the filters of modern objectivity." (p. 19)
    Truett presents a conversation he had Martin, including this quote by Paul: "I thought back then [the 1960s] that people soon would see the evidence and agree with me. Now, though some have come around to my way of thinking, it looks like convincing the majority will take more years than I have left."

    Paul S. Martin References
    Listed in obituary by C. Josh Donlan and Harry W. Greene

    • Martin P.S. (1955) Zonal Distribution of Vertebrates in a Mexican Cloud Forest. American Naturalist 89: 347-361.

    • Martin P.S. (1958) A Biogeography of Reptiles and Amphibians in the Gomez Faria Region, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. (Review of this monograph by Archie Carr.)

    • Martin P.S (1958) Pleistocene ecology and biogeography of North America. In: Hubbs C. L, editor. Zoogeography. Washington (D.C.): American Association for the Advancement of Science. pp. 375-420.

    • Martin P.S (1963) The last 10,000 years: A fossil pollen record of the American Southwest. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

    • Martin P.S (1966) Africa and Pleistocene overkill. Nature 212: 339-342.

    • Martin P.S, Wright H. E, editors. (1967) Pleistocene extinctions: The search for a cause. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    • Martin P.S. (1969) Wanted: a suitable herbivore. Natural History 78: 35-39.

    • Martin P.S (1973) The discovery of America. Science 179: 969-974.

    • Martin P.S. (1975) Sloth droppings. Natural History 75-81.

    • Janzen D.H, Martin P.S (1982) Neotropical anachronisms: The fruits the gomphotheres ate. Science 215: 19-27.

    • Martin P.S, Klein R. G (1984) Quaternary extinctions : A prehistoric revolution. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

    • Clovisia the beautiful! (1987) Natural History 96: 10-13.

    • Betancourt J.L, Van Devender T.R, Martin P.S (1990) Packrat middens: The last 40,000 years of biotic change. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

    • Martin P.S. (1990) Forty thousand years of extinctions on the "planet of doom". Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology 82: 187-201.

    • Martin P.S. (1992) The Last Entire Earth, (Winter 1992-1993), pp. 29-32.

    • Martin P.S, Yetman D.A, Fishbein M.E, Jenkins P.D, Devender T.R.V (1998) Gentry's Rio Mayo plants: The tropical deciduous forest and environs of northwest Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

    • Martin P.S (2005) Twilight of the mammoths: Ice age extinctions and rewilding America. Berkeley: University of California.

    • Donlan C.J, Greene H.W, Berger J, Bock C.E, Bock J.H, et al. (2005) Re-wilding North America. Nature 436: 913-914.

    • Donlan C.J, Berger J, Bock C.E, Bock J.H, Burney D.A, Estes J.A, Foreman D, Martin P.S, Roemer G.W, Smith F.A, Soule M.E, Greene H.W. (2006) Pleistocene Rewilding: An optimistic agenda for 21st century conservation. American Naturalist 168: 660-681.

    Paul holding mummified dung
    of the extinct Shasta Ground Sloth
       Paul S. Martin was a major mentor for Connie Barlow. She met him over the phone in 1996, while interviewing him for her 1997 book, Green Space, Green Time: The Way of Science (which contains several pages of their recorded dialogue). Paul wrote the foreword to her 2001 book, The Ghosts of Evolution, and he coauthored their 2004 paper, "Bring Torreya Taxifolia North — Now!" (or here, which was the first advocacy piece favoring assisted migration for threatened plants stressed by climate change).

    Connie contributed a companion advocacy article to Paul's (and coauthor David Burney's) "Bring Back the Elephants" piece in the Spring 1999 issue of Wild Earth magazine. Connie's essay was titled, "Rewilding for Evolution". Note: The two essays are reprinted as chapters within the book, Wild Earth.


    VIDEO LEFT: "Mammoths, Overkill, and a Deep-Time Perspective on Pleistocene Extinctions" (8 mins)

    Connie Barlow summarizes the worldwide paleontological evidence in support of the Overkill Theory of "extinction of the massive", proposed by Paul S. Martin, in this "Coming Home to North America" program delivered as a keynote presentation in 2004 in Lexington Kentucky (EarthSpirit Rising Conference).

    RIGHT: Click for annotated charts used in Connie's North America overkill presentation.

    Click for Connie's published essay on using a deep-time perspective for coming into a "native" relationship with the continent of North America.

    Paul Martin envisioned America's first "Mammoth Memorial Service", which he and Connie jointly produced at the Mammoth Site in South Dakota in 1999.

    Paul S. Martin and Connie Barlow, 1998.

    LISTEN to a portion of the historic
    which was held at the Mammoth Site
    in Hot Springs, South Dakota, 1999 (right),
    and you can also listen to the closing hymn.


      LEFT: Paul's final book was published in 2007.

  • "Interview with Paul S. Martin" in American Scientist. Topics include overkill and Pleistocene rewilding.

  • "Re-Wilding North America" commentary in Nature (2005) for which Paul was a coauthor.

  • Sharon Levy's 2011 book, Once and Future Giants (Oxford University Press), devotes many pages to the story framing the origin and the outcome of Paul's Overkill Hypothesis.

  •    LEFT: Paul Martin alongside Connie Barlow, who is modeling a replica of the jaw of America's extinct giant short-faced bear.

    LISTEN to the hour-long INTERVIEW that Connie recorded of Paul in 1999. There he talks about Pleistocene overkill, Pleistocene Rewilding, and Ecological Anachronisms.

    Connie contributed a blogpost eulogy:

    "Tribute to the Man Who Gave Me Deep-Time Eyes: Paul S. Martin".

    In the late 1970s, ecologist Dan Janzen recruited Pleistocene ecologist Paul S. Martin to collaborate on looking at which animals likely coevolved with a number of Costa Rican dry-forest plants to disperse their large seeds. Thus was born the idea of "anachronistic fruits" and "missing ghost partners". Janzen and Martin's classic paper on this theme appeared in a 1982 issue of the journal Science:

    "Neotropical Anachronisms: The Fruits the Gomphotheres Ate"


    LEFT: Paul S. Martin and Columbian Mammoth.

    RIGHT: Connie Barlow in Arizona, pointing to what she proposes are "anachronistic" seed pods of a tall species of yucca, which likely coevolved to entice American camels to pluck the fruit, swallow the seeds whole, and thus disperse the species.


    Above: Connie tests an American Honey Locust pod on an Indian Black Rhino.

    Left: Connie tests big-seeded Kentucky Coffee Tree pods (Gymnocladus) on an Indian Black Rhino living free-range in southern Ohio. The rhino chomped and swallowed all dozen of the sweet-smelling pods that it was offered (through the open window of a caretaker's truck). Ecstatic, Connie declared, "This is the first time in 5 million years that Gymnocladus has been reunited with the lineage of its probable earliest dispersal agent!"

    To learn more about Connie's use of the Janzen & Martin "anachronistic" paradigm in her quest to understand Kentucky Coffee Tree, visit her photo-essay, "Arkansas River Pleistocene Dreamtime", and consult her book, The Ghosts of Evolution.

    Online available papers by Connie stimulated by the Janzen & Martin paper include:

  • "Anachronistic Plants and the Ghosts Who Haunt Them"
  • "Ghost Stories from the Ice Age"
  • "Haunting the Wild Avocado"
  • "Botanical Ghosts of Evolution

    This video is dedicated to Paul S. Martin.
    It is a tribute to his inspiring legacy in Pleistocene
    ecology and evolutionary ecology.

    ABOVE RIGHT: "VIDEO is a 5-minute, visually rich (and playful!) introduction to the theme of Connie's 2001 book, The Ghosts of Evolution. Paul Martin wrote the foreword to that book, which is based on his joint work with ecologist Dan Janzen.

    Paul's Foreword in PDF (2 pp.)

    "Paul S. Martin, Pleistocene Ecologist: Colleagues Honor His Science Legacy, 2011".

    This VIDEO is a 50-minute illustrated and tightly edited version of a remembrance held in his honor a year after his death.

    Seven science colleagues present tributes. (See below.)

    Connie Barlow filmed and produced this video.


  • Tom Martin "Childhood Memories" 04:44
  • Jim King "The Pollen Years" 07:31
  • G. Spaulding "Packrat Middens & Pleistocene Vegetation" 15:47
  • Gary Haynes "Overkill and Pleistocene Extinctions" 19:27
  • Alberto Burquez "Rio Mayo Plants" 22:38
  • Tom Van Devender "Natural History of the Southwest" 30:00
  • David Burney "Pleistocene Rewilding" 35:00
  • Connie Barlow "Bring Back the Elephants" 45:36 (song)

         "VIDEO: Once and Future Giants"

    (YouTube channel RandallVictoria)

    A tribute to Paul Martin.

    The singer-songwriter uses the tune
    of John Lennon's "Imagine."

    See also these tributes to Paul S. Martin:

  • TRIBUTE by CONNIE BARLOW: "Tribute to the Man Who Gave Me Deep-Time Eyes: Paul S. Martin ", 15 September 2010 (internal links updated 2023).

  • Tribute by Josh Donlan and Harry Greene

    (Josh co-wrote with Paul, "Role of Ecological History in Invasive Species Management and Conservation by C. Josh Donlan and Paul S. Martin, Conservation Biology, 1 February 2004)

  • Tribute by David Steadman

  • Tribute by Baz Edmeades - focusing on Paul Martin's 1966 paper "Africa and Pleistocene Overkill"; with links to Edmeades's online book, "Megafauna: First Victims of the Human-Caused Extinction.

  • Chapter 10, "Dead Creatures Walking" of William Stolzenburg's 2009 book, Where the Wild Things Were, chronicles the events at the historic meeting in southern New Mexico where Paul S. Martin was senior among a dozen prospective "rewilding" biologists who gathered to reach consensus about advocacy and action. Excerpts:
    Martin had moved beyond the question of who done it, to the suggestion that something ought to be done about it. With almost every overkill paper and presentation from 1969 onward, he began inserting a familiar closing. His bedtime story could not end so bleakly, with human extinguishing the megafauna. It had to continue with humans bringing them back. Martin lobbied for camels and horses as Pleistocene stand-ins to repatriate the Southwest scrublands. But for about thirty years, with warring troops of overkill and over chill so busy lobbing fossil bones and radiocarbon bombs back and forth, nobody much heeded Martin's more heretical punch lines. (pp. 173-74)

    Donlan and Martin, conservation's wunderkind and sage of political incorrectness, began a conversation bound to lead to bigger trouble. Their first paper together took on the status quo of their profession's most sacred charm, the pristine myth of the year 1492. . . If restoration was honestly the goal, why not aim for the pinnacle of the Pleistocene? (p. 176)

    [Donlan and Greene] assembled an eclectic team of twelve who gathered in 2004 for a long weekend at Ted Turner's Ladder Ranch in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico. Among them was, of course, the patron saint of overkill, Paul Martin, and David Burney, the fellow farsighted paleoecologist who'd seconded their irreverent paper "Bring Back the Elephants!" There too was Michael Soule, one of the spearheads of the modern discipline of conservation biology. The roll call also included Jim Estes, chief herald of the sea otter as marine ecology's classic keystone predator; Felisa Smith, an expert on Late Pleistocene mammal communities of North America; Dave Foreman, former congressional lobbyist and recent founder of the Rewilding Institute, a think tank for restoring large carnivores to vacant niches of North America; Joel Berger, innovative expert on large mammal conservation, who'd once sawed horns off African rhinos to spare them from poachers; Gary Roemer, a community ecologist from New Mexico State University; and two eminent biologists from Arizona, Jan and Carl Bock, who were invited to the meeting as a balancing voice of caution. (p. 177)

  • In a lengthy essay in a 2001 issue of the Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Gordon Sayre sets Martin's "Overkill" hypothsesis and "Rewilding" proposal in the context of centuries of fascination with proboscidean fossil discoveries in North America: "The Mammoth: Endangered Species or Vanishing Race?".

  • Wildlife biologist Joe C. Truett has a memoire chapter on Paul's overkill thesis in his 1996 book, Circling Back: Chronicle of a Texas River Valley.

  • "Bison Dung, Prairie Plants, and Mammoth Inferences" - ongoing research by Jacquelyn Gill "documenting the cascading effects of the loss of large herbivores on the plant communities they left behind."

    Photos by Connie Barlow. No permission required for you to use any of these photos. Just drag onto your computer for a 640-width (this is the highest resolution available, as they came off a videocamera tape) filmed at Paul's home in Tucson AZ.

    WACO MAMMOTH SITE (Texas) opens to the public in 2009 (Click links below)

  • "The Trees that Miss the Mammoths" by Whit Bronaugh, in Winter 2010 American Forests.

  • VIDEO: "The Ghosts of Evolution" 5-minute episode in PBS "It's Okay To Be Smart" youtube series (2013).

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