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Did Fire Cause Extinction Of Australia's Fauna?

Fire Caused Extinction Of Australia's Early Mammals

First settlers destroyed landscape of the Fifth Continent

By Marietta Gross - Scoop Media Auckland

According to recent scientific results it was the first settlers about 10,000 to 50,000 years ago who have dramatically damaged flora and fauna of Australia. According to a report by researchers of the Carnegie Institute in Washington DC in the actual edition of the Science Magazine fires were the main cause of a dramatic change on the Australian continent.

Eggshells found by scientist Marilyn Fogel and her colleagues reveal birds that lived in Australia suddenly ingested different nutrients. “Humans are suspected of having caused this wave of mass mortality”, says Fogel, who is alone with this theory. Other experts assume that there were various and complex reasons for the sudden deaths. These theories suggest climate change caused mass-extinctions.

Fogel and fellow researchers analyzed fragments of fossil bird eggs taken from all over Australia. Some of the samples were more than 140,000 years old.

The scientists found an ancestor of today’s emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and of a ratite bird called Genyornis newtoni, which is now extinct, particularly interesting.

Using radio-carbon-isotopes they were able to ascertain how the nutrition of animals suddenly changed. This change in diet, Fogel says, was caused by the settlers’ burn clearing. This changed the flora and fauna. “Only those animals could survive who were flexible in their diet”, explains Gifford Miller from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Other researchers are still of the opinion that there was a peaceful coexistence between Australia’s original fauna and the first humans. This was revealed by many fossil finds such as the ones in Cuddie Springs, New South Wales. Only 30,000 years ago steppe-fication” and desertification took place.


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