Human activity did not wipe out megafauna: latest study

August 13th, 2008 - 11:12 am ICT by IANS  


Sydney, Aug 13 (IANS) A new study that said the first human settlers in Australia wiped out its megafauna has been contracted by a newer study. The latest study says there is no evidence to indicate that human activity wiped out more than 60 species of Australia’s large prehistoric animals or megafauna, between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago. A review of available evidence showed that only 13 species were still alive when humans first arrived in Australia. Those people did not focus on big-game hunting nor cause major habitat change by widespread use of fire.

The review countered claims that the so-called mass extinction took place about 46,400 years ago, which coincides with estimates of first human colonisation of the continent, said Judith Field of University of Sydney and Steve Wroe of University of New South Wales.

They noted that considerable evidence exists to suggest that in some parts of the continent, people and some species may have co-existed for some thousands of years.

“Over 60 animal species disappeared from the Australian continent during that time, mostly large to gigantic marsupials, birds and reptiles,” they noted.

The 13 species that were around the time of human arrival included a giant flightless bird called Genyornis newtoni, a three-tonne marsupial browser called Diprotodon optatum and a number of short-faced and heavily built kangaroos and giant wallabies. At least two species of crocodiles and one giant goanna called Megalania also disappeared.

“The elimination of the purported ‘extinction window’ opens up the debate to the possibility that other large-scale processes may have been important factors in the extinction process,” said Wroe.

“Any claim for a human role on the extinction process must demonstrate, at the minimum, an association of humans and these now extinct animals. Only one site on the continent can do that - Cuddie Springs in northern New South Wales. Nowhere else has this association been found.”

These findings were published in the journal Earth Sciences Review.

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