Scientific Breakthroughs

New Scientific Paper Says Climate, Not Humans, Killed Megafauna

New Scientific Paper Says Climate, Not Humans, Killed Megafauna
PHOTOGRAPH: Bidgee | A female red kangaroo (Macropus rufus), the largest living marsupial, in the Botanic Garden Zoo (Also called Wagga Zoo) at the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens several years ago.

New evidence points to climate change, not human beings, as being responsible for the mass extinction of massive mammals. The mammals, called megafauna, would have more likely died out due to drier, warmer living conditions.

The findings of paleontologist Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University, archaeologist Judith Field of the University of New South Wales, and their colleagues were published in the journal, Paleobiology.  It debunked the commonly held view that humans are the culprits in the decline of Australia’s large mammals, citing that the warm and dry climate have had a deleterious effect on wildlife even before humans set foot on the continent.

The paper focused on Australia as an island continent that served to represent the rest of the world – Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas during the close of the Ice Age 12,000 years past. That was the era when numerous large creatures became extinct.

Among those Australian creatures were nearly fantastic and imaginary beasts such as lizards larger than Komodo dragons, and wombats as big as small cars. Such beasts were all too real, but they died.

Disappearing Megafauna

Humans who hunted and burned grassland were once deemed responsible for the disappearance of megafauna. In a region called the Sahul, the arrival of humans was once thought to coincide with the loss of 88 species of animal.

Sahul is comprised of Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. The species, including oversized kangaroos, giant flightless birds, and ninja turtles, all weighed over 220 pounds.

Evidence to The Contrary

Dr. Field, whose studies cover megafauna and indigenous communities in Australia and New Guinea, has stated that no evidence can pin the blame on humans. There is proof, rather, of humans and megafauna co-existing for 10,000 years or more.

Field herself has made available the photo of a flaked stone artifact and the bone of a giant flightless bird. The site of discovery is a spot in Southern Australia called Cuddle Springs.

At first, the researchers checked out fossil pollen to give them an idea of ancient environments. Then they found fossils and artifacts.

With the fossils, Dr. DeSantis and company were able to gather evidence on the creatures’ diet as dictated upon by the climate. One set of fossils was 350,000 – 570,000 years old, while another was 30,000 – 40,000 years old.

They found that Cuddie Springs was wetter and had more lush greenery 400,000 years ago. Around 40,000 years ago, the climate had grown warmer and drier.

The megafauna was left with no choice but to eat saltbush or nothing. Even for saltbush, the demand grew high: the food became scarcer.

This Could Be Our Final Warning

Exonerated from the loss of bygone beasts, humans must heed the call of facing climate change. It is a reality that will not go away: NASA recently reported the hottest year on record in a streak of hot years.

Knowing what is now known, there is still time to cut down on forest-razing, fossil-fuel-burning acts – for the good of mankind. What happened to Australia may be a natural occurrence, but one that presents the alarming state of things that may happen to present wildlife.


About the author

To Top