Humans 'caused the extinction of giant prehistoric animals' in Australia

Scientists now believe humans were responsible for the extinction of Australia's prehistoric giants

The fossil of a marsupial lion is seen in South Australia

Monday, January 23, 2017

The extinction of prehistoric giant animals in Australia 45,000 years ago was more likely attributable to humans than climate change, new evidence suggests.

Huge kangaroos, wombats, lizards and tortoises used to exist in Australia, however shortly after the first humans arrived more than 85% of those mammals weighing over 45 kilograms became extinct, a study said.

Researchers analysed a precisely dated sediment core collected offshore in southwest Australia, which provided evidence for the last 150,000 years, Science News said.

Professor Gifford Miller, lead co-author of the study, said: “The sediment core contains chronological layers of material blown and washed into the ocean, including dust, pollen, ash and spores from a fungus called sporormiella that thrived on the dung of plant-eating mammals.

“The core allowed us to look back in time, in this case more than 150,000 years, spanning Earth’s last full glacial cycle.” This enabled them to reconstruct past climate and ecosystems on the continent.

The researchers noticed high levels of the fungus sporormiella from 150,000 to 45,000 years ago, showing the presence of the animals, and then a decline from 45,000 to 43,100 years ago.

This means extinction started within 2,000 years of humans colonising Australia, and was completed in less than 2,000 years. 

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