Ancient Australians Were Partly Responsible for Extinction of a Huge Flightless BirdBy Russell Westerholm
A flightless bird that grew up to seven feet tall and weighed 500 pounds lived in Australia before humans arrived likely died out shortly thereafter because man liked to sup on their eggs.
According to Live Science, it was previously not known exactly why Genyornis newtoni became extinct some 50,000 years ago. Their disappearance coincided with humans' arrival at Australia and new research attempts to reveal a link.
Published in the journal Nature Communications, the new study details how analyses of fossilized eggs belonging to the birds indicate humans cooked and ate the eggs.
"We consider this the first and only secure evidence that humans were directly preying on now-extinct Australian megafauna," study lead author Gifford Miller, an associate director of the University of Colorado, Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, said in a press release. "We have documented these characteristically burned Genyornis eggshells at more than 200 sites across the continent.
"We can't come up with a scenario that a wildfire could produce those tremendous gradients in heat," he said. "We instead argue that the conditions are consistent with early humans harvesting Genyornis eggs, cooking them over fires, and then randomly discarding the eggshell fragments in and around their cooking fires."
The researchers collected as many unburned eggs from more than 2,000 sites in Australia, a search that lasted two decades and then some. While other studies have blamed climate change for the extinction, this study introduces humans into the equation.
Miller told Live Science: "Ours is the first study to show with direct evidence that early humans in Australia also preyed on the now-extinct megafauna."