PerspectiveAnthropology

The Remaking of Australia's Ecology

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Science  08 Jul 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5732, pp. 255-256
DOI: 10.1126/science.1113957

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Summary

Human occupation of Australia became widespread around 45,000 years ago. What role did humans play in the extinction of many of Australia's large herbivores, which disappeared around the same time? In his Perspective, Johnson discusses the report by Miller et al., who provide the best evidence to date that human arrival, rather than climate, played the leading role in these extinctions. Changes in the diets of the emu and the wombat and the extinction of the large flightless bird Genyornis point to major ecological changes that cannot be attributed to climate, which was relatively stable at this time. The results suggest that human arrival had a larger impact than the entire last glacial cycle on ecological change in Australia.

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