Aussie Megafauna, Killed By Climate Change

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Aussie megafauna, killed by climate change according to articles in news@nature, ABC News, 30 May 2005, and BBC News 31 May 2005. Megafauna are large animals, such as giant kangaroos, huge lizards and a three tonne wombat named Diprotodont, that once inhabited Australia. Various theories have been put forward for why they died - the most controversial being that aborigines "launched a hunting 'blitzkreig' that wiped them out within a few generations". Judith Field of the University of Sydney, Clive Trueman of University of Portsmouth, UK and colleagues have excavated a site at Cuddie Springs, New South Wales where they collected bones from four layers - two containing stone tools as well as bones, and two that had no tools. They then dated the bones using radioactive dating and concluded that the animals would have lived alongside humans until about 30,000 years ago - 10 to 12 thousand years after aborigines are believed to have migrated to Australia. Field and Trueman suggest that the large animals died out when Australia became drier and colder during the last ice age. They also believe that early human migrants did not have the hunting technology, such as stone spear-points, needed to kill such large animals. Another study of fossils from the Darling Downs, Queensland seems to support these conclusions. Gilbert Price of Queensland University of Technology has studied bones of small animals such as frogs, lizards and bandicoots buried in a 10 metre site and concluded that the environment had changed from one dominated by woodland and vine thickets to open grassland. Some scientists remain sceptical, and claim that the megafauna appeared to survive other climate upheavals through the Pleistocene period (1.8 million to 10,000 years ago) and humans could have "hastened the megafauna's demise by burning habitats to make way for primitive agriculture".


Editorial Comment: Australia is not the only place where large animals have died out. All over the world the general trend is that large animals have either shrunk or died out. The reasons are a combination of all the suggestions made above - climate change, degradation of the environment, loss of vegetation and human activity. Genesis tells us the world was originally created good, i.e. a place of abundant provision for man and animals, but has been degraded by human sin and God's judgement. After Noah's flood there were climate upheavals far greater than any that are occurring now, and many animals would not have survived. At this time humans were given permission to eat meat and human hunters would have hunted large animals simply because they were easier to find and provide more meat. Whatever happened to each species, the demise of megafauna reminds us that the world is going downhill, not evolving upwards. (Ref. extinction, degeneration, environment)