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Climate Change Caused Extinction of Megafauna, not Humans

First Posted: May 07, 2013 05:51 AM EDT
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Till date, humans were primarily held responsible for the extinction of the extraordinary gigantic animals that once roamed Australia. However, this claim lacked direct evidence. But a recent scientific study challenges this theory and blames drastic climate change for the extinction of the megafauna between 40,000-50,000 years ago.

This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by the University of New South Wales, including researchers at the University of Queensland, the University of New England, and the University of Washington.

There was no direct evidence that the extinct megafauna in Sahul were prey to humans or even used as tools for hunting.   According to the study, the continent of Sahul was once inhabited by 90 giant animal species.

"These leviathans included the largest marsupial that ever lived - the rhinoceros-sized Diprotodon - and short-faced kangaroos so big we can't even be sure they could hop. Preying on them were goannas the size of large saltwater crocodiles with toxic saliva and bizarre but deadly marsupial lions with flick-blades on their thumbs and bolt cutters for teeth," associate professor Stephen Wroe, from UNSW, lead author of the study, said in a press statement.

The researchers conclude that there is strong evidence to prove that 8-14 megafauna species still existed when the Aboriginal people arrived. Looking back at the past 130,000 years, they see that nearly 50 species have disappeared from the fossil records.

It is thus evident that it was not humans but the unpredictable climatic decline that caused the disappearance of the megafauna. 

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