A study conducted by Vanderbilt University has found that during the last ice age Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea formed a single landmass known as Sahul. They’ve also found that this landmass was inhabited by a rather bizarre number of giant animals.
The study confirms that this landmass was once home to 500 pound giant Kangaroos, marsupial tapirs the size of horses and wombat-like animals the size of hippos. There were also flightless birds that weighed twice as much as the modern Emu, snakes 33 ft long, 20 ft crocodiles, 8 ft turtles with spikes on their heads, and giant monitor lizards greater than 6 feet long and likely poisonous.
The study determined that by 30 kya most of these giants went extinct as part of a mass global extinction event. Other researchers are not so sure about these findings, however. They believe most of these giant animals were hunted into extinction by Australian aborigines who arrived in the area around 50 kya. Others contend the native population destroyed the animals environment using fire-stick burning. Still others believe a gradual drying out of the environment in Australia along with a weakening in the monsoon was the major reason for these animals extinction. I’d say most likely it was a combination of these factors. When it comes to extinction events it is never a black/white clear cut issue or cause!
Vanderbilt compared the diets of some of these giant animals. One group of fossils teeth used was from around 300 kya and the other from around 30 kya. Their analysis suggests climate change had a huge impact on these giants and their diets and likely was a factor in their extinction. Ya think? (sorry to be pessimistic about this but common sense should already tell us what this $ research has)
Sadly, it appears that some researchers still only see climate as a backdrop! I do NOT believe that to be the case in the slightest. In fact, I think CLIMATE was and IS a MAJOR factor in the evolution and extinction of ALL LIFEFORMS ON THIS PLANET! Common sense should tell us that when climates change so do food supplies, birth rates, mortality rates, and a host of other things. Animals (including humans) either must adapt or die! Those who don’t or can’t adapt go extinct. Those that do survive!
In my mind this study tells us nothing knew but simply confirms what many of us already know. The last ice age not only wrecked havoc in Australia but everywhere else on the planet. As I’ve said before for the past 12,000 years or so climate on this planet has been relatively stable when compared to what it has been prior to the end of the last ice age. In that sense we are lucky today but we know that one day the chaos will return just as we know that one day the ICE will return! Many researchers believe we are now overdue for that great cooling to return and they believe it could return rather suddenly. That would wreck human civilization as we know it in many places! I’ve heard some researchers say that man almost went extinct in the last ice age. We may not be so lucky in the next one.