Climate change not to blame for late Quaternary megafauna extinctions in Australia

Frédérik Saltré*, Marta Rodríguez-Rey, Barry W. Brook, Christopher N. Johnson, Chris S M Turney, John Alroy, Alan Cooper, Nicholas Beeton, Michael I. Bird, Damien A. Fordham, Richard Gillespie, Salvador Herrando-Pérez, Zenobia Jacobs, Gifford H. Miller, David Nogués-Bravo, Gavin J. Prideaux, Richard G. Roberts, Corey J A Bradshaw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Late Quaternary megafauna extinctions impoverished mammalian diversity worldwide. The causes of these extinctions in Australia are most controversial but essential to resolve, because this continent-wide event presaged similar losses that occurred thousands of years later on other continents. Here we apply a rigorous metadata analysis and new ensemble-hindcasting approach to 659 Australian megafauna fossil ages. When coupled with analysis of several high-resolution climate records, we show that megafaunal extinctions were broadly synchronous among genera and independent of climate aridity and variability in Australia over the last 120,000 years. Our results reject climate change as the primary driver of megafauna extinctions in the world's most controversial context, and instead estimate that the megafauna disappeared Australia-wide ∼13,500 years after human arrival, with shorter periods of coexistence in some regions. This is the first comprehensive approach to incorporate uncertainty in fossil ages, extinction timing and climatology, to quantify mechanisms of prehistorical extinctions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10511
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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