Pleistocene Extinction of Genyornis newtoni: Human Impact on Australian Megafauna

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Science  08 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5399, pp. 205-208
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5399.205

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More than 85 percent of Australian terrestrial genera with a body mass exceeding 44 kilograms became extinct in the Late Pleistocene. Although most were marsupials, the list includes the large, flightless mihirung Genyornis newtoni. More than 700 dates onGenyornis eggshells from three different climate regions document the continuous presence of Genyornis from more than 100,000 years ago until their sudden disappearance 50,000 years ago, about the same time that humans arrived in Australia. Simultaneous extinction of Genyornis at all sites during an interval of modest climate change implies that human impact, not climate, was responsible.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: gmiller{at}

  • Present address: School of Oceanography, Box 357940, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195–7940, USA.

  • Present address: Laboratoire des Sciences du Climatet et de l'Environnement (LSCE), Domaine du CRNS–Bt 12, Ave. de la Terrasse, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, Cedex, France.

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