Megafauna Demise Debate

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Megafauna demise debate revived by a new dating method described in Science vol. 327 p 420 22 Jan 2010 and Nature News 23 Jan 2010. Australia was once populated by giants – kangaroos, wombats, birds and reptiles that were far larger than any animal currently living downunder. Researchers who study the fossils of these super-sized creatures have long argued about why they died out. One theory is that aborigines killed them off, either by hunting them or burning the forests, but others claim the megafauna had already died out due to climate changes, such as ice ages and droughts, before humans arrived in Australia.

The human-cause theory received a boost when a sedimentary layer containing both megafauna remains and aboriginal artefacts was found at Cuddie Springs in New South Wales. The layer was dated as being between about 40,000 and 30,000 years old using radiocarbon and luminescence methods. However the climate change theorists were not impressed and claimed the site had been disturbed, with megafauna fossils from older deposits working their way into younger deposits. They claimed that the dating methods were only indirect as they dated the sand and charcoal fragments rather than the fossils themselves.

A group of researchers at the Australian National University have now used electron spin resonance (ESR) and uranium-series techniques to date the megafauna teeth directly. They dated some of the extinct megafauna teeth as about 50,000 years old. In a review of the research on the Cuddie Springs deposit Richard G. Roberts of University of Wollongong and Barry W. Brook of University of Adelaide concluded: “Given that people arrived in Australia sometime between 60 and 45 thousand years ago, human impact was likely the decisive factor. Humans may have caused the demise of the megafauna in two main ways: hunting—possibly of juveniles at rates as low as one kill per person per decade, termed ‘imperceptible overkill’ and habitat disturbance, most likely by burning vegetation.”

Editorial Comment:As creationists we occasionally find ourselves on the sidelines watching two evolutionary camps argue with one another, and delight in telling them they are both wrong or both right. The debate over the demise of megafauna is one example of this. One of the reasons megafauna extinction has become a heated debate is the problem of dating the fossils, as shown in the study above. The other is that it is politically incorrect to accuse the aborigines of doing anything so ecologically unfriendly as hunting animals to extinction and ruining the environment by burning down the forest.

Let’s look at the megafauna in the context of Biblical history. In the beginning God when God created all things, megafauna were created according their kinds, along with all kinds of land animals to live in a very good world that had enough lush vegetation to sustain them and no predators or hunters to kill them. God’s rule was all animals were to be vegetarian, so there would be no death, no struggle to survive. Sadly after the Fall of Man and Noah’s Flood, the world degenerated. The environment was no longer so lush, winter appeared and man was given permission to eat meat and many animals took it up as well. Therefore, after centuries of climate change and hunting, the big beasts eventually died out.

This is not a history unique to Australia. All over the world there is evidence of large animals that have died out due to the same combination of human hunting and environmental degeneration. Their remains are a reminder of how much the original created world has gone downhill and shows no sign of evolving upwards. (Ref. mammals, ecology, anthropology, hunter-gatherers)

Evidence News 17 February 2010

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