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Climate Effects on Megalakes Led to Megafauna Demise

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New research into central Australia’s ancient lakes has found evidence that climate change contributed to the extinction of the continent’s megafauna, such as the giant bird Genyornis newtoni and the giant marsupial Diprotodon.

Dr Joshua Larsen of The University of Queensland said that water resources in Australia were changing significantly about 48,000 years ago when humans arrived and megafauna became extinct. “Our findings are the first clear evidence to directly support the idea that climate played a role in the last megafauna extinction, and that it was not solely attributable to humans,” he said.

Previous research has suggested that humans were spreading across the continent around the same time, hunting and using fire to manage their environment. “The debate has been strongly on the side of human agency in the Australian megafaunal extinction, but we show direct evidence of massive changes to the lakes in central Australia which would have had huge ramifications for regional climate and megafauna habitat,” Larsen said.

The researchers studied ancient shorelines and river deposits in the Lake Eyre basin to understand how previously overflowing megalakes became predominantly dry and salt-encrusted beaches. “We found that major changes to the water cycle caused the megalakes to enter a final and catastrophic drying phase approximately 48,000 years...

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