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Evidence that Climate Change Caused Thylacine’s Mysterious Loss from Australia’s Mainland

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Researchers from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at The University of Adelaide have concluded that climate change from about 4000 years ago, in particular more drought-prone seasons caused by the onset of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, was the likely main cause of thylacine extinction on the Australian mainland.

The ACAD study, published in the Journal of Biogeography, also reported evidence from ancient DNA extracted from fossil bones and museum specimens that a large and genetically diverse population of thylacines lived in western regions of Australia right up to their extinction from the mainland around 3000 years ago.

“The thylacine was a marsupial carnivore, now infamous for its recent human-driven extinction from Tasmania following the arrival of Europeans and their bounty-hunting schemes,” says project leader A/Prof Jeremy Austin.

“Thylacines once lived across most of the Australian mainland, but by the time Europeans arrived in the late 1700s they were found only in Tasmania. They became extinct about 150 years later, with the last of the species dying in Hobart Zoo in 1936.

“But the reasons for their disappearance from mainland Australia and continuing survival in Tasmania has remained a mystery.” Climate change, increased human activity and the introduction of the dingo are the three main causes debated.

The...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.