Feeds

GIANT KANGAROOS wiped out by humans, not climate change

Ancient poo suggests hunters proved too tough for giant marsupials

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

In a land before time – or at least Australia about 40,000 years ago – five meter kangaroos bounded across the landscape. Some were fleeing colossal marsupial lions. Others were trying to stay out of the way of Emus twice the size of today's specimens or Diprotodon Optatum, a rhinoceros-like beastie that was the largest marsupial of all time.

Then in not very many years all of these animals died, leaving scientists rather confounded about just why.

One theory has been that Australian Aboriginals arrived around 40,000 years ago. The marsupial megafuana, previously unchallenged at the top of the food chain and therefore lacking aggressive predators, quickly succumbed to the hunter-gatherers' weapons.

An alternative theory suggested that climate change did them in, by altering the environment in ways that were no longer conducive to massive creatures and their considerable calorific requirements.

The latter theory has just taken a hit, thanks to a new paper in Science by Dr Susan Rule from Australian National University and Professor Christopher Johnson from the University of Tasmania. The pair analysed sediments from a fossilised swamp in Queensland, focusing on the presence of spores from a fungus called Sporormiella that is known to have been present in the dung of ancient herbivores. Lots of Sporormiella, the pair argue, would mean lots of megafauna.

The pair found precious little Sporormiella in samples about 40,000 years old. They also looked at other records of pollen counts and prevalence of charcoal.

The results suggested that Sporormiella counts dropped ahead of a change in plant types and an increase in the incidence of fires.

The pair hypothesise that this shows the megafauana were hunted to extinction, removing Australia's most voracious grazers and therefore allowing more plants to grow. That accounts for the pollen changes and the increased fire, as fewer grazing animals means more fuel for fires.

Other researchers have criticised this logic, as apparently Sporormiella prevalence is accepted as an indicator for the presence of herbivores in New Zealand, Madagascar and the USA. Science awaits a strong link between Australian herbivores and Sporormiella. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?