Research led by UK and Australian scientists sheds new light on the role that our ancestors played in the extinction of Australia's prehistoric animals.
The study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first evidence that Tasmania's giant kangaroos and marsupial 'rhinos' and 'leopards' were still roaming the island when humans first arrived. The findings suggest that the mass extinction of Tasmania's large prehistoric animals was the result of human hunting, and not climate change as previously believed.
Scientists have long argued over the reasons behind the worldwide mass extinctions that took place towards the end of the last ice age. The main culprits are generally thought to be climate change or some form of human impact. People only arrived in Tasmania around 43,000 years ago, when the island became temporarily connected by a land bridge to mainland Australia. None of Tasmania's giant animals, known as 'megafauna' were known to have survived until this time. This appeared to clear humans of any involvement in the disappearance of the island's large megafauna.