EARTH: Ecosystem collapse in Pleistocene Australia

June 05, 2012

Alexandria, VA - In the Late Quaternary, Australia was home to an array of megafauna. The half-ton Palorchestes azael, the rhinoceros-sized Diprotodon, and even the giant koala, Phascolarctos stirtoni, roamed Australia's interior. However, between 50,000 and 45,000 years ago, they all vanished. Although recent studies indicate human colonization as a potential cause of their extinction, the exact mechanism has never been resolved. Now, geologist Gifford Miller from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his colleagues believe they have uncovered the answer.

By analyzing the biominerals found in fossil bird eggshells and marsupial teeth, Miller and his colleagues have pieced together the ancient diets of three Australian megafauna to discover what happened to these creatures. What early mechanisms led to the Australian megafauna's demise? Read the story online at http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/ecosystem-collapse-pleistocene-australia.

Be sure to read this story and more in the June issue of EARTH magazine, available online at http://www.earthmagazine.org. Learn about the rapid erosion happening beneath Greenland's ice sheet; discover the mysterious "Red Deer" people of China; and see why boulders show evidence of earthquakes on Mars all in this month's issue of EARTH.
-end-
Keep up to date with the latest happenings in Earth, energy and environment news with EARTH magazine online at http://www.earthmagazine.org/. Published by the American Geosciences Institute, EARTH is your source for the science behind the headlines.

The American Geosciences Institute is a nonprofit federation of geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.

American Geosciences Institute

Related Megafauna Articles from Brightsurf:

Texas A&M expert: New clues revealed about Clovis people
There is much debate surrounding the age of the Clovis -- a prehistoric culture named for stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico in the early 1930s -- who once occupied North America during the end of the last Ice Age.

Humans and climate drove giants of Madagascar to extinction
The entire endemic megafauna of Madagascar and the Mascarene islands Mauritius and Rodrigues was eliminated during the past millennium.

Past tropical forest changes drove megafauna and hominin extinctions
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) and Griffith University have discovered that Southeast Asia, today renowned for its lush rainforests, was at various points in the past covered by sweeping grasslands.

Ancient genomes suggest woolly rhinos went extinct due to climate change, not overhunting
Although overhunting led to the demise of some prehistoric megafauna after the last ice age, a study appearing August 13 in the journal Current Biology found that the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros may have been caused by climate change.

On the hunt for megafauna in North America
Research from Curtin University has found that pre-historic climate change does not explain the extinction of megafauna in North America at the end of the last Ice Age.

Extinction of threatened marine megafauna would lead to huge loss in functional diversity
The extinction of threatened marine megafauna species could result in larger than expected losses in functional diversity, according to research led by Swansea University.

Counteracting a legacy of extinctions
Now a new study, comparing the traits of introduced herbivores to those of the past, reveals that introductions have restored many important ecological traits that have been lost for thousands of years.

When it comes to conservation, ditch the 'canary in the coal mine'
With habitat loss threatening the extinction of an ever-growing number of species around the world, many wildlife advocates and conservation professionals rely on the proverbial 'canary in the coal mine'--monitoring and protecting a single representative species--to maintain healthy wildlife biodiversity.

Cultural evolution caused broad-scale historical declines of large mammals across China
Researchers from Aarhus University and Nanjing University have shown that cultural evolution overshadowed climate change in driving historical broad-scale megafauna dynamics across China.

In hunted rainforests, termites lose their dominance
Termite populations in African rainforests decline sharply when elephants and other large animals disappear.

Read More: Megafauna News and Megafauna Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.