Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Lessons Learned From Drought Deaths 40,000 Years Ago

Date:
November 29, 2006
Source:
Queensland University of Technology
Summary:
Drought-stricken Australia should heed a warning from a new study that shows a series of massive droughts killed giant kangaroos and other "megafauna" in south-east Queensland 40,000 years ago, according to researchers from the Queensland University of Technology.

Dr. Gilbert Price at the Darling Downs excavation site.
Credit: Image courtesy of Queensland University of Technology

Drought-stricken Australia should heed a warning from a new study that shows a series of massive droughts killed giant kangaroos and other "megafauna" in south-east Queensland 40,000 years ago, according to researchers from the Queensland University of Technology.

Scientists Dr Gilbert Price and Dr Gregory Webb believe understanding how the prehistoric big dry caused extinctions could help predict how and if animals battling current climate change will survive.

The QUT research into the giant Australian marsupials and reptiles and the impact of climate change will be published in the December issue of the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences.

Dr Price and Dr Webb studied the fossil-rich Darling Downs area of south-east Queensland with the help of palaeontologists from the Queensland Museum and an amateur local fossil hunter, Ian Sobbe.

Dr Price said what the team unearthed showed that giant kangaroos and other large wildlife that roamed the area in the late Pleistocene age were drought-stressed when they died.

"What makes this research so relevant to climate change theories today is that the profile of the fossil kangaroo populations is identical to that of a modern drought-stressed kangaroo mob," he said.

"It provides, for the first time, evidence which suggests that the megafauna kangaroos were greatly affected by a series of catastrophic droughts.

"These animals of the prehistoric Australian bush were the largest of their time and included gigantic wombats the size of cars, kangaroos that reached almost 2.5 metres tall, and massive emus and goannas.

"There's nothing we can do now to save these animals - they're all extinct.

"But if we can understand how those animals responded to the massive droughts and climate change events of the past, we might be able to go some way in predicting the effects of future climate changes and its impact on the way that we manage and conserve the precious habitats and wildlife of the Australian bush."

Dr Price said the layers of fossils in the dig area at the Darling Downs were not consistent with some theories that humans had wiped out megafauna.

"Some scientists believe in the 'blitzkrieg' megafauna extinction hypothesis which blames humans for over-hunting these giant marsupials," he said.

"If that was the case, these fossils dating back thousands of years would show the animals dying out at the same point in time. But they don't. These layers of fossils buried at a single site under the Darling Downs show a progressive, three-stage extinction over time that relates to periods of climate change."

Dr Webb said the research had unearthed indicators that the Darling Downs had been a semi-arid environment 40,000 years ago, rather than sub-tropical or tropical.

"Sedimentological information shows that the Darling Downs was experiencing repeating cycles of wet and dry conditions, resulting in droughts and periodic flash flooding from storms, during the time when the megafauna populations were declining," he said.

"The research found no evidence of humans being involved in the accumulation of fossils in the catchment at the time of deposition, but is perfectly consistent with their decline being caused by increasing aridity.

"So it's most likely that Australia's giant kangaroos and other megafauna in this area were driven to extinction by the hands of Mother Nature."

Dr Price, who received his PhD this year for his research, and Dr Webb are both researchers with QUT's School of Natural Resource Sciences and QUT's Institute of Sustainable Resources.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queensland University of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queensland University of Technology. "Lessons Learned From Drought Deaths 40,000 Years Ago." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061128093019.htm>.
Queensland University of Technology. (2006, November 29). Lessons Learned From Drought Deaths 40,000 Years Ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061128093019.htm
Queensland University of Technology. "Lessons Learned From Drought Deaths 40,000 Years Ago." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061128093019.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) — A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) — Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins