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Mass Hunting, Not Climate Change, Responsible for Extinction of Giant Vertebrates

The sudden disappearance of giant vertebrates from the Australian ecosystem was due to mass hunting and not because of climate changes as had been believed for long. This latest argument was published in Science by a research team led by Chris Johnson, from the University of Tasmania, School of Zoology.

The team claims that they have solved the mystery by tracking large herbivores through time by counting the spores of fungi in their dung.

According to them, these giant herbivores produced vast quantities of dung, and a special fungus lived on them. The vertebrates that lived around those times include rhino-sized wombat-like marsupials called Diprotodons, giant kangaroos, a giant geese twice the size of the emu and many others.

The spores of these fungi were preserved in deposits in marshy lands and in lakes. Scientists discovered pollen and charcoal particles trapped in the sediments and they used radio carbon dating to calculate the correct period of their existence.

Results show that the sediments were 1,30,000 years old, by which they conclude that the existence of large mammals was stable until just about 40,000 years ago. This makes it clear that climate change was not the reason for their extinction, as there were several periods of climate change that had happened in that region before the extinction of the animals.

Now, according to the research team, the extinction of these animals happened soon after the period when people arrived in these regions. They point out that the reason for the wiping out of these animals could have been hunting.

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