Megafauna extinction: a groundbreaking study

Australia has a reputation for fearsome fauna. But this is highly exaggerated. I mean, there’s just the world’s deadliest spider.


And the world’s deadliest snake.

And the world’s deadliest octopus.


And the world’s deadliest jellyfish.


And, well, okay, this is a bit scary.


Still! The birds are cute. Except the magpies, they’re horrifying. Anyway, that’s not the point. There used to be a lot of things that were much, much bigger.

Like an echidna the size of a sheep.

Or a magnificent wombat-thing.

Or this weird fella, I don’t even know. But it was as big as a horse.

And then there’s this.

But they’ve all gone now. The prevailing wisdom has it that when the aborigines arrived 50,000 years ago, they promptly invented the barbie and declared it was Saturday arvo until they’d eaten all the big things. Then they got smart, and figured out how to live in a close sustainable relation with the environment.

This theory, however, has never been solidly grounded, and recent research suggests that the story was quite different. It’s a good read!


Not too far away on another island fostering megafauna, there were little human-like beings no taller than 3.5’, nicknamed hobbits. “The feet of H. floresiensis were unusually flat and unusually long in relation with the rest of the body.”

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.




That made me laugh! I could tell some stories—in fact, I think I will.

A friend of mine used to work in a nature resort in the Territory. An absolutely petrified German tourist rushed in to the front office one day.

“Slow down, mate, just tell us what’s up.”

“In the carpark,” he says. “There ist un crocodile … It is eating a horse!”

“So? And?”

“But, but … Mein Gott! A horse.”

“Yeah, mate, the crocs eat the horses. What d’ya want me to do about it?”

And that is how we do customer service down under.


And completely refuting the findings of the previous study, here is another study, which reaffirms that the megafauna did mostly die out soon after the aborigines arrived. Science is hard!

But I have to admit, to my entirely non-expert eyes this study seems to be more broadly based, while the previous one was specific. Maybe the extinction wasn’t total or uniform across the continent.

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