Alexandria, VA – In the Late Quaternary, Australia was home to an array of megafauna. The half-ton Palorchestes azael, the rhinoceros-sized Diprotodon, and even the giant koala, Phascolarctos stirtoni, roamed Australia's interior. However, between 50,000 and 45,000 years ago, they all vanished. Although recent studies indicate human colonization as a potential cause of their extinction, the exact mechanism has never been resolved. Now, geologist Gifford Miller from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his colleagues believe they have uncovered the answer.
By analyzing the biominerals found in fossil bird eggshells and marsupial teeth, Miller and his colleagues have pieced together the ancient diets of three Australian megafauna to discover what happened to these creatures. What early mechanisms led to the Australian megafauna's demise? Read the story online at http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/ecosystem-collapse-pleistocene-australia.
Be sure to read this story and more in the June issue of EARTH magazine, available online at http://www.earthmagazine.org. Learn about the rapid erosion happening beneath Greenland's ice sheet; discover the mysterious "Red Deer" people of China; and see why boulders show evidence of earthquakes on Mars all in this month's issue of EARTH.