In New Guinea, people exterminated giant kangaroos 20 thousand years later than in Australia

(ORDO NEWS) — The settlement of Sahul by people – the ancient continent that unites present-day Australia and part of the Indonesian islands – led to an outbreak of extinction of local species, and in Australia the last giant marsupials disappeared 40 thousand years ago.

However, in the northern part of Sahul, where New Guinea is now located, large species of mammals survived for at least another 20 thousand years, escaping from hunters in remote mountainous areas.

Once on the lands of Australia and New Guinea, many large marsupial mammals, similar and not similar to existing species, roamed.

Rhinoceros-sized wombats, huge kangaroos weighing more than 200 kilograms, unusual predators with razor-sharp incisors, giant lizards and land crocodiles – they were all part of the extinct megafauna of the ancient Sahul continent, which disappeared after the appearance of people on it.

Initially, scientists believed that the extinction affected the entire territory of Sahul, and after the first landing of people on the continent about 60 thousand years ago, most of the megafauna was soon completely exterminated.

However, now it turned out that this is not so: in the Highlands in the east of New Guinea , scientists have discovered the bones of giant kangaroos that lived here 20,000 years ago.

The unique find was made at Nomba, a rock shelter that humans have used for tens of thousands of years, resulting in an accumulation of the bones of the animals they killed.

Since the Highlands are mountainous, people have never been particularly numerous here, which may have allowed some representatives of the megafauna to survive in these forests longer than their counterparts from Australia.

Unfortunately, the poor condition of the bones found did not allow identifying some of them, however, using uranium-thorium dating ( uranium-thorium dating ), scientists were able to establish that at least two species of giant kangaroos, including a member of the Protemnodon genus Protemnodon tumbuna, lived here about 27-22 thousand years ago.

Other representatives of the megafauna found in Nombe, such as the panda -like hulitherium ( Hulitherium tomasetti ) and the marsupial wolf ( Thylacinus cynocephalus ), disappeared from the territory of New Guinea more than 30 thousand years ago, at about the same time as their Australian relatives.

In New Guinea people exterminated giant kangaroos 20 thousand years later than in Australia 2
Excavations in Nombe have been going on for over forty years: these took place back in 1979

Thus, another evidence was found that the extinction of the megafauna of Sahul was uneven, and in some places large animals disappeared faster, while in others they survived for several millennia.

Unfortunately, isolated shelters could not save the whole species, which, in addition, turned out to be the subject of hunting by numerous people, therefore, over time, the last giants of New Guinea suffered the same sad fate.

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