PerspectivePaleontology

And Then There Were None?

Science  22 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5964, pp. 420-422
DOI: 10.1126/science.1185517

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Summary

Giant marsupials, reptiles, and flightless birds once inhabited Australia (see the first figure). But 23 of the 24 genera of these megafauna disappeared in the late Pleistocene (∼125 to ∼12 thousand years ago). Most Australian megafauna appear to have survived until 51 to 40 thousand years ago, with human impact by hunting or vegetation change proposed as the extinction drivers (14). Yet, one site has stood out as an anomaly: Cuddie Springs in interior New South Wales. Persistent claims have been made that this site contains megafauna fossils associated with stone tools in sediments deposited 40 to 30 thousand years ago (57), thus indicating prolonged overlap between people and megafauna. These claims have been challenged (2, 8) based on concerns about possible reworking of fossils from older deposits. To resolve this conundrum, Grün et al. (9) have now directly dated the fossils themselves. The results provide no evidence for the late survival of megafauna at the site.