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'Fires wiped out' ancient mammals
BBC ^ | 7/8/05 | Helen Briggs

Posted on 07/08/2005 9:39:15 AM PDT by LibWhacker

The first humans to arrive in Australia destroyed the pristine landscape, probably by lighting huge fires, the latest research suggests.

The evidence, published in Science magazine, comes from ancient eggshells.

These show birds changed their diets drastically when humans came on the scene, switching from grass to the type of plants that thrive on scrubland.

The study supports others that have blamed humans for mass extinctions across the world 10-50,000 years ago.

Many scientists believe the causes are actually more complex and relate to climate changes during that period, but, according to Dr Marilyn Fogel, of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, US, chemical clues gleaned from the eggshells suggest otherwise.

"Humans are the major suspect," she said. "However, we don't think that over-hunting or new diseases are to blame for the extinctions, because our research sees the ecological transition at the base of the food chain.

"Bands of people set large-scale fires for a variety of reasons including hunting, clearing and signalling other bands.

"Based on the evidence, human-induced change in the vegetation is the best fit to explain what happened at that critical juncture."

Carbon clues

Dr Fogel's team, based in the US and Australia, examined hundreds of fragments of fossilised eggshells found at several sites in Australia's interior dating back over 140,000 years.

They looked at the indigenous emu and the Genyornis, a flightless bird the size of an ostrich that is now extinct.

The type of carbon preserved in eggshells gives a picture of the food the birds ate.

Before 50,000 years ago, emus pecked at nutritious grasses. But after humans arrived, about 45,000 years ago, they switched to a diet of trees and scrubs. Genyornis, however, failed to adapt and died out.

"The opportunistic feeders adapted and the picky eaters went extinct," said Professor Gifford Miller, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, US.

"The most parsimonious explanation is these birds were responding to an unprecedented change in the vegetation over the continent during that time period."

The data sheds light on the contentious issue of what led to the extinction of 85% of Australia's large mammals, birds and reptiles, after about 50,000 years ago, when human settlers arrived by sea from Indonesia.

Climate change theory

Mass extinctions on other continents also coincide with the arrival of modern humans, suggesting the two events are linked.

In North America, for example, the disappearance of the likes of mammoths and ground sloths is coincident with the arrival on the landmass of new stone-spear technologies carried by humans about 12,000 years ago.

But at the time the first settlers reached Australia there is no evidence of significant fluctuations in climate - they came later.

However, Clive Trueman of the University of Portsmouth, UK, disagrees.

He says some large mammals survived long after the sudden changes in vegetation identified by Dr Fogel's team.

"While there may be a connection between the arrival of humans and changes in vegetation, as demonstrated by carbon isotopes, sudden changes cannot be largely responsible for megafaunal extinctions as the beasts survived for at least 15,000 more years," he told the BBC News website.

"It is likely that extinctions were not caused by any single event, but reflect compounding factors such as natural climate changes associated with the Ice Age fluctuations and, quite possibly, the arrival of humans."


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: aboriginal; aborigine; ancient; archaeology; australia; barryfell; climatechange; eggshells; extinct; extinction; fire; fires; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; helixmakemineadouble; history; mammals; megafauna

1 posted on 07/08/2005 9:39:15 AM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

It's all Bush's fault.


2 posted on 07/08/2005 9:40:20 AM PDT by Redcloak (We'll raise up our glasses against evil forces singin' "whiskey for my men and beer for my horses!")
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To: PatrickHenry

ping


3 posted on 07/08/2005 9:41:59 AM PDT by Vaquero (an armed society is a polite society (Heinlein).)
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To: Redcloak

"It's all Bush's fault."

I agree. :)


4 posted on 07/08/2005 9:42:56 AM PDT by LibSnubber (liberal democrats are domestic terrorists)
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To: LibWhacker

All malarkey.


5 posted on 07/08/2005 9:43:02 AM PDT by Archon of the East ("universal executive power of the law of nature")
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To: LibWhacker

when does the trial begin?


6 posted on 07/08/2005 9:43:16 AM PDT by sure_fine (*not one to over kill the thought process*)
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To: LibWhacker
The evidence, published in Science magazine, comes from ancient eggshells.

Have they been looking in my trash again?

7 posted on 07/08/2005 9:44:58 AM PDT by COBOL2Java (If this isn't the End Times it certainly is a reasonable facsimile...)
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To: LibWhacker; blam; SunkenCiv; nickcarraway

BTTT


8 posted on 07/08/2005 9:46:39 AM PDT by Fiddlstix (This Tagline for sale. (Presented by TagLines R US))
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To: LibWhacker

DDT hadn't be outlawed during that time.


9 posted on 07/08/2005 9:46:47 AM PDT by lilylangtree
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To: LibWhacker

The first humans to arrive in Australia destroyed the pristine landscape...

&&
No, that can't be; only European settlers damaged the environment wherever they went. Indigenous people never hurt anything. /sarc


10 posted on 07/08/2005 9:47:08 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Never trust Democrats with national security.)
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To: LibWhacker
The first humans to arrive in Australia destroyed the pristine landscape, probably by lighting huge fires

That's it, blame the Black Fellows.

11 posted on 07/08/2005 9:48:58 AM PDT by Mike Darancette (Mesocons for Rice '08)
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: LibWhacker

The Kyoto Treaty could have prevented this horrible release of greenhouse gases.

Prepare the Wayback Machine and the Chrono-Lawyers!


13 posted on 07/08/2005 9:51:46 AM PDT by Gefreiter ("Are you drinking 1% because you think you're fat?")
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To: LibWhacker

I guess we attract lightning?? /rolling eyes here....


14 posted on 07/08/2005 9:51:52 AM PDT by MD_Willington_1976
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To: LibWhacker

***The first humans to arrive in Australia destroyed the pristine landscape, ***

AHA! Proof at last that the evil white man was there first! (Sarcasm off)


15 posted on 07/08/2005 9:55:01 AM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar (IN GOD IS OUR TRUST! from the National Anthem, last verse.)
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To: LibWhacker
The first humans to arrive in Australia destroyed the pristine landscape, probably by lighting huge fires, the latest research suggests.

No wonder the Deep Ecology types want to wipe out the human race - we're all, black and white, just a bunch of anarcho-arsonist vandals!

Oh, wait a minute, that's their gig.

What to think!

16 posted on 07/08/2005 9:56:03 AM PDT by headsonpikes ("The U.S. Constitution poses no serious threat to our form of government.")
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To: Fiddlstix; blam; FairOpinion; Ernest_at_the_Beach; StayAt HomeMother; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; asp1; ...
Thanks Fiddlstix. Here's something related, from 1999, with a link direct to the full PDF file (the Science website requires member access, even for the abstract, and the old URL I had no longer exists).
Pleistocene Extinction of Genyornis newtoni:
Human Impact on Australian Megafauna

Gifford H. Miller, John W. Magee,
Beverly J. Johnson, Marilyn L. Fogel,
Nigel A. Spooner, Malcolm T. McCulloch,
Linda K. Ayliffe
Jan 8 1999
Abstract

Science, Volume 283, Number 5399 Issue of 8 Jan 1999, pp. 205 - 208
More than 85 percent of Australian terrestrial genera with a body mass exceeding 44 kilograms became extinct in the Late Pleistocene. Although most were marsupials, the list includes the large, flightless mihirung Genyornis newtoni. More than 700 dates on Genyornis eggshells from three different climate regions document the continuous presence of Genyornis from more than 100,000 years ago until their sudden disappearance 50,000 years ago, about the same time that humans arrived in Australia. Simultaneous extinction of Genyornis at all sites during an interval of modest climate change implies that human impact, not climate, was responsible.
To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
The GGG Digest
-- Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

17 posted on 07/08/2005 10:20:23 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (last updated by FR profile on Tuesday, May 10, 2005.)
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To: blam
Also check out Steven Pyne's The Burning Bush: A Fire History of Australia.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0295976772/ref=lpr_g_1/103-2721266-1053422?v=glance&s=books

18 posted on 07/08/2005 10:23:54 AM PDT by Thud
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To: LibWhacker
We're all DOOMED. The humans have arrived here on Earth!

(Wait a second. That's us isn't it? Oh nevermind)

19 posted on 07/08/2005 10:30:39 AM PDT by John O (God Save America (Please))
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To: LibWhacker

Sounds like the first humans in Australia were U.S. Forest Service bureaucrats.


20 posted on 07/08/2005 11:20:28 AM PDT by yoswif
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To: Vaquero
Thanks for the ping. Interesting, but probably not an evo thread. (I'm so picky.)
21 posted on 07/08/2005 11:36:46 AM PDT by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas. The List-O-Links is at my homepage.)
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To: Archon of the East

Explain.


22 posted on 07/08/2005 11:39:19 AM PDT by Junior (“Even if you are one-in-a-million, there are still 6,000 others just like you.”)
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To: Bigg Red; SunkenCiv
"The first humans to arrive in Australia destroyed the pristine landscape... "

The same thing was said about North America when the humans got here 12,000 years ago.

Now that we've found 30-40,000 year old human foot prints in Mexico, what killed the large mammals off 12,000 year ago, huh?

23 posted on 07/08/2005 11:44:30 AM PDT by blam
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To: Junior
Even if it could be determined with 100% certainty that fires did in fact "wipe out" pristine landscape, there is absolutely no certain way to determine if humans were in fact the cause. Fires ignite naturally all the time. I believe Australia was still a real hot place 45,000 years ago. Granted this article does in fact use phrases like "best fit" and "we don't think" and the type of carbon "gives a picture" all showing the obvious lack of any ability to ascertain with acceptable reliability their speculation, It still strongly states that "evil man" is the cause of destruction.

That being said, if man did set fires for the reasons stated one has to ask how dense was the human population? Enough to impact the whole species in all areas? If fires got out of control then that would suggest an environment that is conducive to natural causes for fires. So even though the title is a possibility, the absolute statement that man is in fact the lone and sole cause is malarkey. Yes I have read the concluding sentence:

It is likely that extinctions were not caused by any single event, but reflect compounding factors such as natural climate changes associated with the Ice Age fluctuations and, quite possibly, the arrival of humans."

This should have been the introduction IMO if an article of this type is to be take seriously.

24 posted on 07/08/2005 12:17:41 PM PDT by Archon of the East ("universal executive power of the law of nature")
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To: Archon of the East

That's a whole lot better than just willy nilly blowing it off. Thanks.


25 posted on 07/08/2005 12:29:26 PM PDT by Junior (“Even if you are one-in-a-million, there are still 6,000 others just like you.”)
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To: sure_fine
Reparations!!!
26 posted on 07/08/2005 12:54:23 PM PDT by bfree (PC is BS)
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To: LibWhacker

Once upon a time, science was about the search for truth. Then, government funding became involved and science has become the hunt for unending research grants. If not, why does every government research study end with "the results are inconclusive, we need more time (they say, but they actually mean money) to fully research the issue."


27 posted on 07/08/2005 6:05:29 PM PDT by Surtur (Wal-mart...walnuts, Oprah...Uma, coincidence, I think not.)
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To: blam
Yeah, I'm not sympathetic to the "humans did it" view, most of the time. It tends to be just anachronism projection, and an attack on the current lifestyles and personal liberty of we the people.

In Horus, a journal published by the late David Griffard, vol II no 1 (1985), Barry Fell was interviewed. Alas, DG went down in a private plane after the seventh issue. Among other things:
In the middle of Australia there is a group of three or four meteorite craters called the Henley craters. They're like the Arizona meteorite crater -- not so big, but there are several of them -- and, like in Arizona, the land was scattered with pieces of iron meteorite. I think the [inaudible] dating very slow growing desert plants. They believe that the date is about 5000 years ago -- the formation of the craters. The Aboriginal name for this area is the "Place Where The Sun Walked on the Earth" -- they must have seen it!

28 posted on 07/08/2005 11:02:18 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (last updated by FR profile on Tuesday, May 10, 2005.)
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To: LibWhacker
< sarcasm>
Of course, natural wildfire had nothing to do with it, just as modern vulcanism, putting out more CFCs in on explosion than human kind has done during its entire racial history, has nothing to do with climate change either.
< /sarcasm>
29 posted on 07/08/2005 11:19:40 PM PDT by Frumious Bandersnatch
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To: Archon of the East

Could the fires have been ignited due to wars between tribes? One band of tribes bent on burning the other out, all over the territory.

If it was just from careless campfires, it sounds like the place was a tinderbox already and some well placed lightning could have easily done the same job.


30 posted on 07/08/2005 11:23:32 PM PDT by The Red Zone (Florida, the sun-shame state, and Illinois the chicken injun.)
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To: LibWhacker
Too many back yard barbecues
31 posted on 07/08/2005 11:27:12 PM PDT by NorseWood
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To: The Red Zone
Could the fires have been ignited due to wars between tribes? One band of tribes bent on burning the other out, all over the territory. If it was just from careless campfires, it sounds like the place was a tinderbox already and some well placed lightning could have easily done the same job.

All are possibilities, and how could one a person determine the exact time and cause of such occurrences? It is also possible that it wasn't fire at all. That is why when you read these articles you will always see terms like "best fit". I don't mind research and speculation but the first line in the article is quite pathetic and speaks towards todays politics rather than any science. The big mistake people make when reading this "malarkey" is they take the statement of two events occurring at that same time and automatically accept that they are connected. It is kind of like what linear regression analysis is to todays scare mongering, essentially made up information to support a position, not exactly the same but a lack of cause and effect science to be sure.

32 posted on 07/09/2005 5:52:47 AM PDT by Archon of the East ("universal executive power of the law of nature")
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To: LibWhacker
Maybe they just liked fried chicken Genyornis.
33 posted on 07/09/2005 12:07:43 PM PDT by balrog666 (A myth by any other name is still inane.)
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To: LibWhacker

The writer should study the progression of flora on CRP land in the US prairie regions. It seems that trees and scrub flourish best in areas where the grass has neither been grazed nor burned. Fires commonly only lead to regrowth of native grasses without competition from scrub.


34 posted on 07/09/2005 12:15:16 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe (Grant no power to government you would not want your worst enemies to wield against you.)
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