What caused the extinction of Australia’s megafauna?
During the Pleistocene, around 2.6 million to 12,000 years ago, a series of ice ages caused sea levels to rise and fall. On several occasions, this created land bridges connecting Australia to New -Guinea and the regency of the Aru Islands to the north and Tasmania to the south, which together formed a land mass known as Sahul.
Apart from climate changes, the Pleistocene is also known for the disappearance of large animals, known as megafauna. Over the past 60,000 years, animals such as the woolly mammoths of Europe and the giant ground sloths of the Americas were part of a whole menagerie of giant creatures that have gone extinct.
Climate change is thought to have played a role in the extinction of megafauna, but that’s not all.
When humans arrived in Australia at least 65,000 years ago, many large animals roamed the continent. These included a giant kangaroo known as Procoptodona lion-like marsupial called Thylacoleoand the giant wombat Diprotodon.
However, over the next 20,000 years, most of these species would disappear. Today, Australia is home to no native animals over 40 kilograms.
It is believed that human influence, whether by directly hunting the animals or burning their habitats, contributed to the rapid extinction of some of these giants. The disappearance of these animals happened so quickly that little evidence of human interactions with this megafauna remains in the fossil record today.
But there is an exception. Excavations across Australia have revealed thousands of eggshell fragments dating back over 55,000 years. Eggs weighing around 1.5 kilograms have been found, but identifying the bird that laid them has been a challenge.
Whereas G.newtoni has always been considered a strong candidate, some scientists have argued that the shell shape and thickness better match the extinct giant malleefowl Program.
After years of arguments on both sides, the debate is now closed.