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Sahara pump theory facts for kids

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Tassili art
A photo of art that shows an animals that was common in the Sahara when it was wet. The photo was found at Tassili in the central Sahara

The Sahara Pump Theory attempts to explain how plants and animals from Africa moved into the Middle East and then Europe and Asia.

At the time, Africa was rainier than it is today, and the Sahara was wetter, with bigger lakes and more rivers.

African rainy periods are associated with a "wet Sahara" phase, during which larger lakes and more rivers exist. This causes changes in the type of animals found in the area.

Regardless of the aridity of the greater Sahara, migration along the river corridor was halted when, during a desert phase 1.8-0.8 million years ago, the Nile ceased to flow completely and possibly flowed only temporarily in other periods due to Nubian Swell uplift.

During the periods of a wet Sahara, the Sahara and Arabia become a savanna grassland and African flora and fauna become common. During the following dry period, the Sahara reverts to desert conditions usually as a result of the retreat of the West African Monsoon southwards. Evaporation exceeds precipitation, the level of water in lakes like Lake Chad falls, and rivers become dry wadis.

Flora and fauna previously widespread retreat northwards to the Atlas Mountains, southwards into West Africa, or eastwards into the Nile Valley and thence either south-east to the Ethiopian Highlands and Kenya or north-east across the Sinai into Asia. This separates populations of some of the species in areas with different climates, forcing them to adapt, possibly giving rise to speciation (species splitting).

The Saharan pump has been used to date four waves of human emigration from Africa, namely:

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