Australia’s landscape of today was the original home of tapirs that were as big as horses, 500-pound kangaroos, 8-foot turtles and giant wombat-like creatures. Today, new research says that change in climate could be the cause of extinction of these species. According to the paleobiology journal, as the patterns of weather changed in this region, the land started drying and affecting the food supply of the animals. Most of these animals could not adapt, and all species called megafauna died.
Practically, species usually have three options when it comes to climate change. They can either acclimatize, move or go extinct. Although climate change was at a slower rate than today, extinction was the scenario that happened to these animals. Dr. Larisa DeSantis, the assistant professor at Vanderbilt University and her colleagues concluded by carrying out research on fossilized megafauna teeth in the Cuddie spring of south-eastern Australia. The carbon and oxygen isotopes present in these remains provided records of humidity and temperature levels of that period.
Scientists have also carried out a similar test on modern-day kangaroos and have come up with a discovery that the teeth chemical composition is a good proxy for judging humidity. This test makes them well suited for tracking aridity changes over time.
They were able to conclude what the species were feeding on by examining teeth scratches and realizing that the climate continued getting drier. The climate change made them start shifting from eating ordinary plant resources. The factors which lead to the extinction of these species include lack of water and the inability to get adequate food. Movement from this region was hard because cooler climates in Australia are in the mountainous areas where large animals can find it hard to access.
The primary factors identified in the research include a decrease in resources and an increase in aridity. In the case where the landscape is drying, availability of water becoming limited, and moisture content in the plants getting low, competition between animals for the resources become eminent. These findings are part of a broad and fierce scientific debate over the extinction of megafauna. Several researchers attribute this destruction to anthropological causes. They believe these animals were preys and their habitat encroached hence death.
DeSantis, however, does not rule out possible human causes but points out on the empirical evidence they did. She states that if the climate did play a role, whether a decisive or a small one, it suggests that we have to start thinking about the current change in climate and resultant consequences.
This study, which was basing on hard evidence, states that climate changes had a crucial impact on the Pleistocene megafauna in Australia. This argument adds more evidence for challenging the imaginative assumption that human beings led to this extinction.
Researchers have to learn more about megafauna history including intricacies of biology and ecology. Several animals might have particular susceptibilities to climate change as a result of their biology. It is imperative that we study and understand them for understanding the vulnerabilities, and the characteristics that make other animals more or less buoyant.