According to a new study, Australia’s first human inhabitants were the ones who cooked and ate the cantaloupe-sized eggs of the flightless bird, Genyornis newtoni. This extinct giant bird species were believed to inhabit Australia almost 50,000 years ago!
The theory behind the extinction of Genyornis newtoni!
Australian megafauna comprises of a number of large animal species who lived in Australia, and are often defined as those species who have body mass estimates greater than 45 kilograms. Genyornis newtoni was one of those Australian megafauna. It was a mysterious large, flightless bird which was nearly 7-feet tall and weighed around 227 kilograms. Their closest living relatives are waterfowl.
But, with the new findings by the researchers of the University of Colorado Boulder in US, published in the Nature Communications journal, gives reliable proof of the human being involved in the extinction of these birds. According to the researchers, human played a very substantial and crucial role in the extinction by preying on Genyornis newtoni, the giant bird’s eggshells.
Although, there are two main theories which propose a cause for Australian megafauna extinction, one is of course the human impact and another one is climate change. But, the new evidence which consists of the diagnostic burn patterns on Genyornis newtoni eggshell fragments indicates that early humans were collecting, and cooking, and eating Genyornis eggs.
This study collected egg shell fragments of Genyornis newtoni from almost 200 sites which showed burn marks. Then the analysis of amino acids in the eggshells showed some interesting facts. The egg shells were dated to between 53,900 and 43,400 years before present; and suggest that the humans were collecting and cooking their eggs in the thousands of years before their extinction.
Different dating techniques including optically stimulated luminescence dating and radiocarbon dating have shown that the blackened fragments were in between 44,000 and 54,000 years old; most probably no younger than 47,000 years.
Chemical analysis also suggested a localized heat source, consistent with the deliberately lit human fires instead of the wild fires. And, many of these burned shell pieces were found in the tight clusters which were less than 10-feet across, the researchers have reported.
However, there is a counter argument theory which exists, suggesting the pattern of long term extinctions of the Australian megafauna was due to the climate change!