(ORDO NEWS) — An interdisciplinary team of scientists presented a new study proving that the first inhabitants of modern Australia coexisted with huge animals, including giant lizards and kangaroos.
The author’s article appeared on the ScienceAlert portal, and the study itself was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Scientists have studied the fossil bones of animals found in Australia over the past 10 years. They concluded that the first settlers of this continent had to live next to very formidable neighbors.
When people first arrived in today’s Queensland, they probably stepped to the ground, where the ancestors of modern monitor lizards, up to six meters long, and giant kangaroos, which were twice as tall as human, lived.
As the authors of the work explain, the bones were found on the lands of the Barad-Barn aborigines, located about 100 kilometers west of the city of Makai. They were discovered in the South Walker Creek mine.
To date, the remains of at least 13 extinct species have been found. Many of them are new to science species. Analysis showed that these creatures lived in the tropics of Australia between 60-40 thousand years ago.
At that time, they were the largest land animals since the time of the dinosaurs. Scientists conducted detailed studies of the sites themselves, on which the bones were found, in order to understand what the local environment was like in the past.
It turned out that the fauna in northern Australia was significantly different from the southern fauna, primarily in terms of the size of the local inhabitants. Until now, it was believed that giants, including some species of huge crocodiles, became extinct long before the appearance of people on this earth.
But researchers argue that in at least one area of Australia they existed 40-60 thousand years ago. It was this age that turned out to be fossils. So, scientists found the remains of not only a six-meter dinosaur, reminiscent of modern dragons on Komodo Island, but also the “armored” crocodile that lived on land.
In addition, the remains of rather strange mammals were found – a giant wombat with fangs, a marsupial bear-sloth, huge kangaroos and wallaby.
For example, the largest kangaroo found found weighed approximately 274 kg. This individual was the largest kangaroo known to science of any period of time, including the goliath kangaroo Procoptodon goliah. By the way, the species was previously unknown, but it has not yet received a name.
However, the record among the fossil mammals found in the mine was set by the three-ton marsupial diprotodon, and scientists called the marsupial lion of the species Thylacoleo the most dangerous creature of that period. It is noteworthy that these representatives of extinct giants were adjoined by other representatives of the megafauna that survived to this day: emu, red kangaroo and sea crocodile.
Why did these giants die out? Scientists believe that it is not people who are to blame for this, as one might suspect. The studied sites showed that humans and giants have coexisted for millennia. Extinction occurred about 40 thousand years ago.
The extinction periods of giant animals coincide with a period of significant climate change in this region. Excavations showed that the average air temperature here gradually increased, natural fires became more frequent, the area of vegetation decreased, and access to water was limited.
According to the authors of the work, a combination of these factors could be fatal for giant terrestrial and aquatic species. Although it is clear that the discussion about the extinction of megafauna will continue for many years to come.
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