Apex Predator Dies Shortly After the Arrival of Humans, Climate Change Blamed

Thylacoleo carnifex
Thylacoleo carnifex. By Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com) – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The University of New South Wales, birthplace of the Ship of Fools, sees no connection between the arrival of Australian Aboriginals, and the subsequent rapid demise of a dangerous apex predator which dominated Australia for millions of years.

Climate change the likely killer of Australian marsupial lion


Scientists believe Thylacoleo carnifex was probably a victim of the drying out of Australia, which began about 350,000 years ago, rather than from the impact of humans.

For nearly two million years the marsupial lion was one of Australia’s top predators. The animals were sized between leopards and African lionesses but had a bite that was about 80 per cent as strong as a large lion, enabling it to crush bones with its powerful jaws.

The study led by Professor Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University posited that, despite being well-adapted for consuming flesh and bone, Thylacoleo was likely the victim of the drying out of Australia, which began about 350,000 years ago.

The marsupial lions persisted for thousands of years afterwards, as more and more forests disappeared. The animals survived even past the influx of humans to the continent roughly 60,000 years ago. Ultimately, the loss of forest habitats likely led to the extinction of these predators, with the last known record sometime between approximately 35 and 45 thousand years ago.

“These data provide evidence that the marsupial lion was an ambush predator and relied on prey that occupied denser cover,” Professor DeSantis said.

“As the landscape became drier and forests less-dense, these apex predators may have become less-effective hunters and succumbed to extinction.

“The study of these ancient fossils provides us with cautionary lessons for the future: climate change can impact even the fiercest predators.

Read more: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/climate-change-likely-killer-australian-marsupial-lion

Despite the dryness of the Australian continent, there are substantial forested areas, along with vast areas covered in dry scrubland vegetation which could potentially provide cover to well camouflaged ambush predators.

Feral cats are becoming a serious nuisance in the Australian outback. While feral cats are nowhere near as large as Thylacoleo carnifex, and of course feral cats are not marsupials, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed our feral cats are rapidly growing larger. Perhaps there is a vacant ecological niche waiting to be filled.

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October 18, 2018 9:52 pm

What a horrible creature we are! Why did God make us?


Bryan A
Reply to  Chaamjamal
October 18, 2018 10:41 pm

At least he made us in our own image

Bryan A
Reply to  Bryan A
October 18, 2018 10:43 pm

Thankfully the ability to evolve was also thrown into the mix and we aren’t all hairy backed with thick brow ridges any more

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Bryan A
October 19, 2018 8:01 am

Hey! I resemble that remark!!

Bob Hoye
Reply to  Bryan A
October 19, 2018 6:28 am


Reply to  Chaamjamal
October 19, 2018 2:01 am

Climate alarmists have “fractured fairy tales”, lol – thank you – a much needed chuckle!

John F. Hultquist
October 18, 2018 9:57 pm

What was their main diet?
What happened to those critters?
While this is an interesting bit of research,
I fail to see how it relates to any situation today, unless
one thinks UN RCP-8.5 is reality.

Bryan A
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
October 18, 2018 10:38 pm

Heffalumps and Woozles

Bryan A
Reply to  Bryan A
October 18, 2018 10:43 pm

Thankfully the ability to evolve was also thrown into the mix and we aren’t all hairy backed with thick brow ridges any more

Leo Smith
Reply to  Bryan A
October 18, 2018 11:16 pm

..just a lot of us…

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
October 19, 2018 10:50 am

What happened to those critters?

That’s a good question. And the answer is still unknown.

Excerpted from commentary quote: “Climate change the likely killer of Australian marsupial lion”

These data provide evidence that the marsupial lion was an ambush predator and relied on prey that occupied denser cover,” Professor DeSantis said.
“As the landscape became drier and forests less-dense, these apex predators may have become less-effective hunters and succumbed to extinction.

Surely there was sufficient kangaroo “burgers” and ”steaks” to prevent the marsupial lions from starving to death, to wit:

Kangaroos and other macropods share a common ancestor with Phalangeridae from the mid-Miocene. ……. From the late Miocene though the Pliocene and into the Pleistocene the climate got drier which led to a decline of forests and expansion of grasslands. At this time there was a radiation of macropodids characterised by enlarged body size and adaptation to the low quality grass diet with the development of foregut fermentation.

Kangaroos have few natural predators. The thylacine, considered by palaeontologists to have once been a major natural predator of the kangaroo, is now extinct. Other extinct predators included the marsupial lion, Megalania and the Wonambi.

Reply to  Samuel C Cogar
October 20, 2018 4:04 am

Samuel C Cogar

Nothing to do with food availability.

The marsupial lions were so terrified when they read the guardians gloomy predictions of a future dystopian world they all keeled over.

There’s a moral in there somewhere.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  HotScot
October 20, 2018 4:07 am

That was a goodern. 🙂

October 18, 2018 10:09 pm

Just shows that climate change does not require a human cause.

Steven Mosher
Reply to  DonK31
October 20, 2018 4:09 am

ding ding ding

Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 26, 2018 2:35 pm

Ding dong Moshy’sso wrong.

October 18, 2018 10:16 pm

It makes no difference whether they died out due to climate change or humans. Has nothing to do with the current debate.

Steven Mosher
Reply to  Mike
October 20, 2018 4:09 am

ding ding ding

david lm
October 18, 2018 10:35 pm

The Australian Aborigine caused climate change?

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  david lm
October 19, 2018 12:10 am

The Australian aborigine always accuses the white man of destroying the Australian climate.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
October 20, 2018 9:17 am

The correct spelling is Aboriginal with a capital A.
Lower case a indicates someone who is born in a country.
And yes, with their fire farming they did change the ecology of the country.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  david lm
October 19, 2018 12:32 am

Basically “Aborigine” means indigenous people.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
October 19, 2018 6:13 am

“Aborgnines”, as Archie Bunker called them!

Patrick MJD
Reply to  john
October 19, 2018 7:41 pm

That might need some explaining even to someone who lives in Aus. lol

Bill In Oz
Reply to  david lm
October 22, 2018 6:16 pm

Actually there is strong evidence that they did. They used fire as a way of clearing scrub and promoting the growth of fresh grasslands which fed kangaroos.. And the reduced tree vegetation lead to reduced rainfall in many inland pats of Australia…

Whether this also was a cause in the extinction of the marsupial lion, has not been studied.

Peter Lewis Hannan
October 18, 2018 10:35 pm

If anyone hasn’t read it yet, please read “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond. 70,000 years of human history where it becomes very clear that humans have grossly affected the environment, made extinct hundreds of species on different continents, and have been “imperialists” around the world since the establishment of agriculture, cities and states.

Bryan A
Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 18, 2018 10:39 pm

Go Humanity!!! Rah rah rah.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 18, 2018 11:16 pm

..by just doing what comes naturally…

Have you ANY idea how much another species – GRASS – has affected the environment?

Peter Lewis Hannan
Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 18, 2018 11:19 pm

I should add that “Guns, Germs and Steel” proposes the ONLY non-racist historical and geographical and climatological explanation for why Europe conquered, and why, for example, Aztec ships did not reach Europe to conquer.

Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 22, 2018 12:29 pm

Aztecs didn’t have ships capable of sailing the oceans.
They didn’t even have the wheel.

Developing ocean going vessels you first need to have an water based trading network.
In order to develop a water based trading network you need to have a network of ports.
There aren’t a lot of good ports in S. America.

John Tillman
Reply to  MarkW
October 22, 2018 12:43 pm

The Aztecs did know the wheel, but they only used it for toys. They lacked suitable draft animals to make the wheel useful. I suppose that carts pulled by people or dogs might have been a little better than back packs of head carriage, but much of central and southern Mexico is mountainous.

Tom Halla
Reply to  John Tillman
October 22, 2018 12:58 pm

I think you are confusing the Aztec with the Maya. Both Mexican Indians, but the only archaeological find of wheeled toys was in the Yucatan.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
October 22, 2018 1:10 pm


Nope, I’m not.

Two wheeled figurines were found at the Olmec site of Tres Zapotes in the 1940s. The first such find was in 1880 by Claude-Joseph Désiré Charnay in the Aztec heartland, at Popocatépetl, although I don’t know the age of the discovery site.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
October 22, 2018 6:08 pm

This paper on Mesoamerican wheeled effigies is from 1987:


Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 18, 2018 11:43 pm

Will it make me cry?

It’s called competition and adaptation to it. That’s what CONSTANTLY alters the biota and evolves it throughout geological history. Those sorts of jaundiced books are great for, well, selling books, but they always present a story of doom and gloom, rather than the other side, which is that the biota is perfectly healthy today (healthier than prior to industrial humanity actually) with modern humans present.

And life, in the form of humans, and what hitches a ride with us, can now live on all continents and even in space (where hitchhiker germs grow very well I read).

Humans will almost certainly be responsible for seeding other parts of the solar system with life soon too, and life per-sec will have a chance to do it all over again … ad-infinitum.

I’m so ashamed. NOT.

Reply to  WXcycles
October 20, 2018 12:46 am

The book IMHO is presents the facts w/o a lot of moralizing or blaming. Stating the Aztecs and Incas were destroyed by Europeans AND smallpox is not blaming, it is what happened.

Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 19, 2018 1:26 am

Yes but Diamond does not say humans caused climate change only that climate change caused the collapse of various societies… notably the Danish settlements in Greenland… its an old book and now has many detractors… Bronowski a better read

Reply to  Pixie...
October 22, 2018 12:32 pm

There has been a similar climate change when each of the preceding glacial phases ended.
The marsupial lion, as well as the North American mega fauna had survived many such changes in climate without dying out. Why was the most recent change different?

John Tillman
Reply to  Pixie...
October 22, 2018 12:51 pm

Erik the Red was Norwegian. Many of his fellow Icelanders who followed him to Greenland were probably also of Norwegian descent. Garðarr Svavarsson, first to circumnavigate Iceland, was Swedish. Ingólfr Arnarson, alleged founder of Reykjavik, was from Norway.

Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 19, 2018 2:04 am

Nope. Most critters that went extinct did so before we came on the scene.

Ron Long
Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 19, 2018 2:57 am

Peter, the book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” was published in 1997 as a rebuttal to the 1994 book “The Bell Curve”. The tenants of the Bell Curve live on and Guns, Germs, and Steel only survives in the minds of Socialists, etc.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Ron Long
October 19, 2018 8:10 am


I have read the book, and that’s not my take away from it at all. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before and Diamond has some pretty good observations, in my opinion.

Tom Halla
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
October 19, 2018 8:37 am

I’ve read both books, and The Bell Curve relied on handwaving to deal with most of the controversies, especially Sir Cyril Burt and his conclusions and methods.
Diamond was making an argument, and mostly had plausible evidence for his assertions. Did I conclude he had proven his case? Not quite, but he was clearly trying to stimulate a discussion.

Reply to  Ron Long
October 20, 2018 12:41 am

Pray do tell how one can read about the Chatham Islanders and their pacifist ways and come to the conclusion Guns, Germs and Steel helps the socialist argument?

Pacifists were eaten (literally) because they were not war like. Interesting note it wasn’t the Europeans who killed off that civilization.

The book just basically says European germs beat American germs and is main reason no Natives of the Americas were able to adopt steal and effectively fight back. Steel and guns was the reason for the initial victories.
If syphilis which came from the Americas was as virulent as small pox it may have been a different story.

It is a generalization of course, and doesn’t pretend to be otherwise.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 19, 2018 7:56 am

I’m sure if you plead with your local zoo they will build you an exhibit to live in.

And here we have the progressive homosapien exhibit. The first species to become so progressive that they devolved back to a primitive and less suitably adapted form for the world today.

Michael 2
Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 19, 2018 11:42 am

That book is on my reading list but I have a doubt you are accurately describing it.

Van Doren
Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 19, 2018 2:10 pm

“Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond is complete BS, which denies evolution, IQ and so on. Work of a leftist.

Reply to  Van Doren
October 19, 2018 5:55 pm

I don’t feel that Guns, Germs, and Steel so much -denies- evolution and IQ as it points out that that other influences are involved in the advancement of societies. One such point that resonated with me was that historically cultures were able to move East and West much more easily than moving North or South because their food crops were limited by their climatic growth zones. Thus, although one could assume evolutionary and IQ equivalencies between the relatively primitive North American Indians and the comparatively sophisticated Central/South American Mayans and Incas, the Central/South Americans never moved northwards beyond Mexico.

Another thought provoking idea is that nomadic peoples are always ultimately defeated by farming people who raise pigs and chickens. It seems that those who live with animals can’t easily move away from …their filth. A consequence of this is that farmers develop, over generations, tremendous immunity to disease. Nomads who tend move when a place becomes dirty don’t gain this protection, and consequently such protection and die off when the two groups meet.

While not dispositive, these are interesting things to consider

John Tillman
Reply to  Lokki
October 19, 2018 6:31 pm


Nomads also live in close proximity to animals. They do move more than farmers, but pastoralists nevertheless are exposed to zoonotic diseases.

Nor is it the case that farmers always defeat nomads. Among cases in point are the Huns and Mongols.

Furthermore, most of the peoples colonized by Europeans from c. AD 1500 to 1900 were, like them, farmers. In the Americas, large draft animals weren’t available, but turkeys, llamas, alpacas and dogs were. Neolithic Mesoamericans pulled off the greatest of all domestications, turning teosinte in to corn (maize), a far tougher act of breeding success than wild rice into domesticated rice in SE Asia or wild wheat into domesticated wheat in SW Asia.

The Aztecs and Incas had just entered the Bronze Age when the Conquistadors descended upon them, but that’s not because Amerindians were dumb. They just weren’t subject to the greater cultural exchanges and populations of the “World Island” (Asia, Europe and Africa).

Also, the exchange of pathogens went both ways. While the Old World’s smallpox devastated the Americas, the New World’s novel syphilis strain similarly ravaged the Old.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Van Doren
October 19, 2018 8:33 pm

Oh really? Diamond makes some weak arguments in Guns Germs and Steel, but you address none of them. My worst insult is that you argue like a leftist.

Reply to  Peter Lewis Hannan
October 20, 2018 9:20 am

Rats have wiped out more species.

Bryan A
October 18, 2018 10:37 pm

Between 60,000 and 20,000 years ago humans moved into Australia and changed the climate for Kanga, Roo, Joey, Tigger And Poo. What will Rabbit and Piglet do?

Reply to  Bryan A
October 18, 2018 11:02 pm

I understand Rabbit is doing very well in aus.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Michael
October 18, 2018 11:34 pm

So is Piglet.

Poo moved to Canberra.

Bryan A
Reply to  Craig from Oz
October 19, 2018 5:49 am

Canberra? I wondered where all the Poo went

Bryan A
Reply to  Craig from Oz
October 19, 2018 5:50 am

Pooh, Oh bother

October 18, 2018 11:15 pm

Humans finished off the dinosaurs.

Leo Smith
Reply to  GTB
October 18, 2018 11:18 pm

Nah. I have dinosaur eggs for breakfast.

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  Leo Smith
October 19, 2018 6:04 am

…because we humans made the dinosaurs chicken.

Reply to  GTB
October 19, 2018 6:02 am

If it moves eat it, if it doesn’t move poke it till it moves then eat it.

Richard Patton
Reply to  LdB
October 19, 2018 2:28 pm

Nah, the proper saying (according to the sailors) is “if it moves salute it, if it doesn’t paint it.

Reply to  Richard Patton
October 31, 2018 6:04 pm

According to us Army folks it is “If it moves, salute it. If it doesn’t move, pick it up. If you can’t pick it up, paint it”.

October 18, 2018 11:17 pm

60,000 to 40,000 years ago, the planet was reaching the minimum CO2 levels at 180 ppmv. This led to a planetary reduction in biodiversity and plant life that seriously reduces the food chains in many species, especially apex predators. This is reflected in many mega fauna extinctions around the old worlds, which was also coincident with the migrations of fairly sparse human migrations. Probably wasn’t one thing that did them in, but a cause and effect of multiple stressors over longer time frames. After surviving for ‘eons’ and many multiple major ice ages, they suddenly disappeared forever.

The fact that CO2 has been reducing with each successive ice age should be cause for concern for the next 100,000 years. The little bit humans put into the atmosphere will be sequestered real quick as soon as we slow down and quit fossil fuels. The future of the good Earth in the long run on a short term geological scale is probably extinction of a lot of life as we know it. Isn’t it ironic that what many call a pollutant, CO2, is responsible now for the richest biosphere and the most stable climate in a very long time.

Reply to  Earthling2
October 19, 2018 1:22 am

Yes, isn’t it ironic that decreasing CO2 could cause the end of life on earth.

” In about 600 million years from now, the level of carbon dioxide will fall below the level needed to sustain C3 carbon fixation photosynthesis used by trees. Some plants use the C4 carbon fixation method, allowing them to persist at carbon dioxide concentrations as low as 10 parts per million. However, the long-term trend is for plant life to die off altogether. The extinction of plants will be the demise of almost all animal life, since plants are the base of the food chain on Earth.”

old construction worker
Reply to  Jeff
October 20, 2018 2:40 am

Who knows what will happen. ‘…carbon dioxide will fall below the level needed to sustain C3 carbon fixation photosynthesis used by trees.’ Super volcano may release much needed gases and dust. Wild fires may consume have of the Rain Forest. Then there is always something from outer space slamming into our planet. Personal, I think we should throw Mann and Gore into the nearest volcano to please the gods.

Reply to  old construction worker
October 22, 2018 2:52 am

Sacrifice the Weatherman?

Reply to  Earthling2
October 19, 2018 9:00 am

The Quaternary extinction event started circa 130,000 years ago. The evidence from many previous glacials and interglacials for the majority of the mid and late Pleistocene epoch with the dozens of ice ages that came and went, were that the mega fauna animals were on a slow downward population trajectory for the last 2.6 million years. This was since the Isthmus of Panama closed up between 2-3 million years before present and we shifted into the current state of planetary arrangement with ice ages and a new colder time known as the Quaternary era, which was a colder, dustier and a wind swept planet and a much less hospitable Earth being the prominent fixture on the land scape. These mega fauna animals didn’t originally evolve in any such condition, but had to face this reality for 2.5 million years since as the new age of ice and a globally weary colder planet became the reality for the majority of time that was very much dominated by the new ages of this new ice box planet.

Obviously, all these mega fauna animals had been evolving in the previous Pliocene and Miocene for millions of years prior and for hundreds of thousands of years prior to their demise, they had been adjusting to their new much less hospitable habitats and new climatic conditions of the more recent ice ages of the Pleistocene. The new fixture of ice age the last 2.6 million years with full blown and half started ice ages that lasted tens of thousands of years, punctuated with only short term interglacials, led to a slow demise of many of the mega fauna animals had already stressed these populations to a breaking point by the time humans arrived.

What I find perplexing, is that the proponents of the human influence demise causing the extinction events, sort of think that everything was just hunky dory for all these mega fauna animals until humans showed up on the scene, and then presto, all the mega fauna animals disappear as soon as a few humans show up. This very much sounds like an Alarmist position, which is just blame humans for everything that goes wrong. But this is by the some of the same people who advocate that present day billions of people cause no issue for the planet with our fossil fuel usage, but somehow a few thousand early humans wiped out all the dozens of these mega fauna animals in every nook and cranny of the planet starting 60,000 years ago. It just doesn’t add up logically, or even pass a rudimentary smell test.

Patrick MJD
October 18, 2018 11:26 pm

4.5 million years ago “Lucy” was forced from trees and stood upright. Yes, this too is blamed on climate change.

Craig from Oz
October 18, 2018 11:37 pm

So the lost of forest habitat did in the marsupial lion, but the well accepted ‘fact’ that humans in pre-1788 Australia often hunted by setting fire to everything, reshaping most of the continent into grasslands, is not even discussed?

Reply to  Craig from Oz
October 19, 2018 12:04 am

Or that the bush rapidly adapted to humans burning it and many trees create flammable eucalyptus oil that accelerates, intensifies and helps spread bush fires.

You’d think they’d evolve the other way, create fire-retardant leaves instead, but apparently burned dead trees leads to better species survival than prolonging tree life does, so the trees have evolved to burn and die instead, to propagate the next generation’s seeds and clear the ground for them to grow and get the light and ash nutrients.

The consensus ways of thinking are not better than Life’s ways of doing.

Reply to  WXcycles
October 19, 2018 2:28 am

Eucalypts usually survive brush fires. They even have special buds that only develop after heating. Eucalypts are pyrophytes i e adapted to fires.

Eucalypts are much more dominant in Oz during this interglacial than during the previous ones, probably because of aboriginal bush burning.

Reply to  tty
October 19, 2018 6:05 am

Not quite, the already weakened vulnerable ones die, the strong ones with little damage (the majority) live.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Craig from Oz
October 19, 2018 8:00 am

50,000 years ago, pre 1788…pretty much the same thing.

October 19, 2018 12:04 am

There is overwhelming evidence that humans caused extinction of mega fauna worldwide whenever they migrated to an area.

“New evidence based on accurate optically stimulated luminescence and uranium-thorium dating of megafaunal remains suggests that humans were the ultimate cause of the extinction of megafauna in Australia.
The dates derived show that all forms of megafauna on the Australian mainland became extinct in the same rapid timeframe — approximately 46,000 years ago[1] — the period when the earliest humans first arrived in Australia .”

Reply to  Jeff
October 19, 2018 12:39 am

And not just in Australia . This from Science Daily a few years back:

“True causes for extinction of cave bear revealed: More human expansion than climate change
August 25, 2010
Plataforma SINC
The cave bear started to become extinct in Europe 24,000 years ago, but until now the cause was unknown. An international team of scientists has analyzed mitochondrial DNA sequences from 17 new fossil samples, and compared these with the modern brown bear. The results show that the decline of the cave bear started 50,000 years ago, and was caused more by human expansion than by climate change. ”

Kurtis Reno
Reply to  Jeff
October 20, 2018 7:20 am

Humans seem to migrate to new territory when resources become scarce. Seems plausible that the event that caused the collapse of the mega-fauna could also have initiated the human migration to Australia in search of food. That would preclude the human cause.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Jeff
October 22, 2018 4:42 am

The people of that time claimed the same karst caves as the cave bears.

From the killed cave bear they took only “the best”, the brain and the paws.

The rest of the cave bear skeleton is found intact in a side cavity.

Only at the end of this epoch, perhaps the last hundred years, are skeletal cuts of flint knives found on the rib bones and long bones of cave bears.

Until today it is not clear how the people of that time could overwhelm these big animals.

October 19, 2018 1:44 am

No brainer…

Clumate change enabled the aborigines to migrate into Australia and wipe out the marsupial lions.

To paraphrase the ending of King Kong

Well Denham, it looks like the aborigines got’em.

No… Twas climate change killed the beasts.

Funny thing… There was a recent paper that blamed the increase in moisture during deglaciation for the demise of the megafauna. I haven’t been able to find any indication that the end-Pleistocene deglaciation was any different than previous Pleistocene deglaciations, in terms of drying/moisrurizing of the climate(s).

Since glaciations locked up large volumes of fresh water in ice sheets, glacial stages tend to be much dryer than interglacial stages.

M__ S__
October 19, 2018 1:49 am

“Apex Predator Dies Shortly After the Arrival of Humans, Climate Change Blamed”

Was this because our ancient ancestors started driving their SUV’s?

Robert B
October 19, 2018 2:19 am

I was hoping I could find a picture shown to us by park rangers in Hattah national park when I was young, just 50km from home.
The feral cats they showed were quite a bit bigger than this one.

Reply to  Robert B
October 19, 2018 3:57 am

Great article. I love the last line: “Fist sized ladybugs that explode when touched.”

Gary Kerkin
October 19, 2018 2:41 am

Many years ago, more than 40, I attended a conference dinner in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. At the time I was teaching in the Engineering Faculty at the University of Melbourne. The after-dinner address was given by Geoffrey Blainey who was then Professor of Australian History at the University. He spoke about some of the pre-history of Australian Aborigines including that they were known to have fire. They were also known, he said, not to put out the fires they started. He commented that Captain James Cook noted in his logs in 1770 that the east coast of Australia always seemed to be wreathed in smoke. No doubt some of the fires were started by lightning, but Blainey went on to say that the Aborigines used fire to hunt—to flush out animals hidden in the bush and spinifex. He thought that this probably was a significant contributor to the disappearance of the giant marsupials. Many of the bones of giant marsupials have been discovered at the bottom of bluffs and Blainey’s theory was that fire drove them to the top of the bluffs and then over the edge.

I think this a more cogent explanation than that they were killed by climate change. After all the other marsupials managed to survived, including those of the larger kangaroos. This is outside my field of knowledge but I would have guessed that while some of the various sub-species have disappeared that if only the giant marsupials were affected the largest kangaroos (greys and reds) would have been affected too.

Reply to  Gary Kerkin
October 19, 2018 2:50 am

Actually there were several extinct kangaroos bigger than the grey and the red.

Reply to  Gary Kerkin
October 19, 2018 4:02 am

Also, if the beasts had been around for two million years they must have been through a few changes in climate before.

Reply to  Gary Kerkin
October 22, 2018 8:18 am

There were much larger kangaroos and some folk think that folk did for them….


October 19, 2018 2:48 am

Sigh. This is an old academic row between paleontologists who think the extinction of the megafauna in Australia was due to aborigines overhunting and more politically correct ones for which non-white people by definition cannot have a negative impact on the fauna or anything else.

As a matter of fact it cannot be conclusively proven one way or other because it happened beyond the range of radiocarbon dating. Both human expansion and megafaunal extinction happened during the relatively mild and climatically undramatic middle part of the last glaciation, but neither can be dated closely. Also note that the Australian paleontological/archaeological record is very poor compared to other continents. For example there is not one single decent megafaunal site known from the entire Northern Territory where one would expect human impact to be earliest, and climatic change to be mildest.

Also several megafaunal species (e g the giant varanid Megalania) are only known from very few and poor remains, and new species are still being discovered. For example Thylacoleo caves, the first megafaunal site from the Nullarbor, contained eight previously unknown extinct kangaroo species.

It’s not like in New Zealand where we know the maori arrived c. 1280 AD and we can tell that all large flightless birds were extant in 1280 but extinct by 1450 AD.

Reply to  tty
October 19, 2018 2:58 am

It’s a very simple logical excercise.

What differentiates the most recent Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycle from previous Late Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles?

Make a list of the differences, and you’ll have the list of possible explanations for the demise of the megafauna.

Reply to  tty
October 19, 2018 3:08 am

wasnt it flimflams pet find? nullabor sinkhole/cave trapped em?

and i sure havent heard of other thylacaleo elsewhere
this sheila giving flimflams works as a basis or tie in for hers i wonder?
theyve pushed aboriginal habitation to 60k yrs in some spots…pretty weak but now they ALL claim all ancestors were here then.
i doubt it.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
October 19, 2018 6:17 am

I would not be surprised if Aboriginal habitation was isolated, incremental, coastal and often temporary as well as reversible, much like the early habitation of Greenland. Australia was a nasty cold dry and dusty place of freezing windblown deserts, gibber plains and dunes during the middle of the last glacial. I doubt many communities survived, except for nomadic coastal and river/lake communities that expanded inland as the inter-glacial got rolling.

Reply to  tty
October 19, 2018 6:12 am

There were giant killer kangaroos around so it was a fair fight and they lost .. to the victor goes the spoils.

Reply to  tty
October 19, 2018 7:07 am


I have a question.

Did New Zealand’s flightless birds “live” only where the Maori lived and hunted, or did the Maori live and hunt throughout all of New Zealand and thus caused the bird’s extinction?

In other words, if these birds inhabited areas where there were no Maori hunters, than how could the birds extinction be credited entirely to the Maori? There must have then been other contributing factors which were ????

John Tillman
Reply to  JohnTyler
October 19, 2018 2:32 pm

The giant flightless birds moa thrived for millions of years in New Zealand, numbering in their tens of thousands when humans arrived c. AD 1280. By 1440, if not before, they had all disappeared. Lots of other indigenous species suffered the same fate.

Same thing happened on other oceanic islands after human occupation or even just visitation, since rats from ships or the pigs left behind as food for return voyages were often all it took to wipe out indigenous species.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
October 19, 2018 2:54 pm

The various moa species alive at the time of human occupation lived on both North and South Islands, and in a variety of habitats.

Reply to  JohnTyler
October 20, 2018 5:53 am

The Maori spread all over New Zealand with quite remarkable speed. It is barely possible even to discern the process by radiocarbon dating. Probably exactly because they hunted out the easy game in an area within a few years.

There are sites with moa bones and cooking ovens all over. Have a look at this, particularly fig 2:’


October 19, 2018 3:25 am

I once had a paleontologist tell me that Diprotodon were as stupid as a rock and would not recognize a human as a threat, you could of walked up to one of them and cut a steak off their rump and it would of barely flinched.
The very first arrivals would have a had a ball with all the walking butcher shops just grazing around the place.

Stephen Cheesman
Reply to  Southerncross
October 19, 2018 7:16 am

My bet is, if given the opportunity, that paleontologist would quickly have become a candidate for the next edition of the Darwin Awards.

October 19, 2018 3:28 am

What’s very strange is the marsupial-placental parallelism. There were giant sloths (marsupials as far as I know) in South America at that time and mucht more recently – a corral was found with remains of one from before the Clovis 15,000BP horizon. They were definitely food. Is there a difference between marsupial and placentals adaptability?
Monotremes have average body temperatures of only about 90°F. Marsupials maintain a higher average body temperature, around 95°F, which is still below the average body temperature of most placental mammals, about 99°F. These different body temperatures correspond to the same succession of different metabolic rates. The marsupials of S.America vanished because the Panama Isthmus allowed a placental invasion.

John Tillman
Reply to  bonbon
October 19, 2018 7:40 am

Sloths are placentals.

Reply to  bonbon
October 20, 2018 5:56 am

And the Giant Sloths survived the “Great American Exchange” by c. 3 million years until humans showed up about 10,000 years ago. In the West Indies giant sloths survived until about 5,000 years ago, when people arrived there too.

John Tillman
Reply to  tty
October 20, 2018 3:58 pm

Yup. Ground sloths benefited from the exchange by spreading into North America, all the way to Alaska.

October 19, 2018 4:01 am

A fantastic case of confirmation bias.

October 19, 2018 4:28 am

I would think that a changing environment would have more to do with the “extinction” of a species rather than actions by (very) primitive man.
I just don’t think a relatively small number of men with pointy sticks can do that much damage to an apex critter population.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Matthew W
October 19, 2018 5:24 am

It is amazing what one can do with chipped rocks and pointy sticks. The minor little fact that large beasties that did not evolve around people, as in all climates except Africa, mostly suffered major losses when people showed up. Please remember those “primitive” people were every bit as “intelligent” as current people.
The Americas and Australia formerly had megafauna, and the date of their disappearance is rather close to the estimated arrival of people.

Reply to  Matthew W
October 20, 2018 3:42 pm

Matthew W

I wonder if it wouldn’t be the disruption of the breeding cycle rather than the outright killing of each animal that hastened the extinction.

October 19, 2018 6:15 am

I don’t have a clue about this and suspect it’s probably a bot of both, but I am puzzled how humans could wipe out this particular animal and not say the kangaroos. The article points out that the Thylacine survived until the 20th century, so why did it survive humans but not Thylacoleo carnifex?

For that matter if humans are so good at wiping out predators, why are there still lions in Africa?

John Tillman
Reply to  Bellman
October 19, 2018 11:42 am

The marsupial lion ate larger prey than the marsupial wolf or coyote. Humans wiped out the megaherbivores, so their predators followed.

African megafauna co-evolved with humans for millions of years, so became adapted to avoiding predation by us when we got dangerous to them. Our australopithecine ancestors were themselves prey to leopards and the young to eagles. Even modern humans are vulnerable to crocs.

But when fully modern humans invaded Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas, the megafauna weren’t ready for us. Previous invasions by H. erectus-grade humans didn’t have the same effect, even when they evolved into H. heidelbergensis, thence Neanderthals and Denisovans. Their numbers were too low and technology not advanced enough yet.

Reply to  Bellman
October 20, 2018 6:01 am

They did wipe out most kangaroo, particularly lhe largest species. The thylacine survived until about 4000 years ago on the Australian mainland, where it disappeared about the time the dingo was introduced.

And for all of you that think that one can’t hunt large dangerous animals with “pointed sticks”, google “Lehringen lance”.

John Tillman
Reply to  tty
October 20, 2018 4:00 pm

Even more impressive IMO are the Schöningen spears or javelins from 300 to 337 Ka.

Granted, the H. heidelbergensis hunters didn’t kill elephants with them, as did Neanderthals, but horses, red deer (Old World version of American “elk” or wapiti) and European bison.

October 19, 2018 6:59 am
October 19, 2018 7:07 am

I have always been a proponent of the disease carrier theory. That humans and their assorted lice and pet’s lice infect local wildlife as humans migrate. We know that smallpox killed up to 90% of indigenous populations. Quite possibly other plagues did the same to megafauna herds. Surely, hunters took some toll, but really, why risk death hunting mastodons and tigers when you can go fishing and rabbit hunting.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 19, 2018 8:02 am

That doesn’t make sense. You’ll find that wild animals have plenty of their own lice and many of them migrate much more than any human culture has ever done in a single year.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
October 19, 2018 8:34 pm

Doesn’t?? Lice were just an example of how disease can spread leaving no paleo record other than bones. Where people go, so do rats, cats, dogs, chickens. Large animals including humans can have high mortality rates to new communicable diseases. If 9 out of 10 large animals fall to disease, it is much more likely that other forces such as hunting, fire setting, unfavourable climate, can finish them off.

John Tillman
Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 19, 2018 8:38 pm


What evidence do you have that Pleistocene and Holocene megafaunal extinctions were due to diseases spread by humans?

I know of none, but if you have some, please enlighten me.


Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 20, 2018 6:04 am

There are no known disease that will kill almost all large animals, both mammals and birds, but not small ones, and not in Africa.

October 19, 2018 9:32 am

What do the petroglyphs say?

KR Wolf
October 19, 2018 10:02 am

Thanks to everyone today! As a zoologist, Mr Worrall’s piece and your comments are the most fun I’ve had all week.

October 19, 2018 11:28 am

Thylacoleo carnifex died out about 20,000 years after the arrival of humans. This is not “shortly”. So it probably was a combination of climate drying / loss of forest, and competitive and hunting pressure from humans, that led to their extinction.

A number of other species worldwide did die out more or less immediately on arrival of modern humans, from the 60kya out-of-Africa event (yes there were earlier breakouts yawn yawn but this was the first of behaviourally modern humans). This included all other archaic humans, such as Neanderthals, Denisovans and Floresiensis (the hobbits).

It is interesting now however to see if indeed a new feline predator could become established.

John Tillman
Reply to  Tasfay Martinov
October 19, 2018 11:43 am

Depends upon when you think that humans first arrived in Australia in numbers.

John Tillman
Reply to  Tasfay Martinov
October 19, 2018 5:37 pm


The large prey species of the marsupial lion are also extinct, so a new feline predator would have to make do with the medium-sized herbivores which remain.

When humans first occupied Australia remains controversial. We probably hit New Guinea first, which is connected to Oz during the low sea levels of glacial intervals. The earliest evidence of human occupation of Oz is from a NT rock shelter dating to around 55 Ka. The oldest actual fossils are some 10,000 years younger. So the disappearance of the marsupial lion approximately 35 to 45 thousand years ago isn’t such a big gap.


The arrival of our species “triggered dramatic and permanent changes to the continent’s landscape and its wildlife”. Roughly 60 species of Oz’ “large mammals and birds became extinct around 45,000 to 50,000 years ago as a result of massive fires that were likely set by early humans”.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
October 19, 2018 5:38 pm

Not to mention reptiles!

Reply to  Tasfay Martinov
October 20, 2018 6:05 am

“Thylacoleo carnifex died out about 20,000 years after the arrival of humans.”

References please.

NZ Willy
October 19, 2018 11:44 am

I visited a natural history museum here in Dunedin NZ 30 years ago, and the moa display was signposted with a narrative that the moa had died out naturally shortly after the arrival of man. This when the middens (stone ovens) full of cooked moa bones were already well known. The stupid, it hurt then and hurts now.

October 19, 2018 12:32 pm

From Wikipedia (no reason to suppose that this particular entry is unreliable):

Although believed to have been killed by climate change, some scientists now believe Thylacoleo to have been killed by humans destroying the ecosystem with fire in addition to hunting its prey. “They found Sporormiella spores, which grow in herbivore dung, virtually disappeared around 41,000 years ago, a time when no known climate transformation was taking place. At the same time, the incidence of fire increased, as shown by a steep rise in charcoal fragments. It appears that humans, who arrived in Australia around this time, hunted the megafauna to extinction”. Following the extinction of T. carnifex, no other apex mammalian predators has taken their place after their disappearance.

So – the idea that T. carnifex was wiped out by climate change pre-dates the UNSW paper, and the paper is trying to resurrect an old idea. Another Wikipedia entry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsupial_lion) gives another clue:

Australia’s Pleistocene megafauna would have been the prey for the agile T. carnifex, who was especially adapted for hunting large animals, but was not particularly suited to catching smaller prey. The relatively quick reduction in the numbers of its primary food source around 40,000 to 50,000 years ago probably led to the decline and eventual extinction of the marsupial lion. The arrival of humans in Australia and the use of fire-stick farming precipitated their decline.

We can probably expect to see these Wikipedia entries changed soon to support the UNSW paper. That’s fair enough, if the UNSW paper is truly new knowledge. But is it? The timing of the extinction with (a) humans changing their environment and killing their prey, and (b) a stable climate, would suggest otherwise. I doubt that the UNSW study is capable of distinguishing between climate change and human-driven environment change.

R Davis
October 19, 2018 7:24 pm

40.000 – 60.000 years ago man migrated from Africa – where humankind began, rom one cell dividing.
It had to be before that – how long would it have taken African man to walk to some place in the Asia Pacific Region – from whence they SWAM to Australia ??
* Neanderthals were sailing the Mediterranean 100.000 years ago, Neanderthals were ancient mariners.
So it is safe to assume that migrants from Africa, or the descendents of the original migrants from Africa, did not swim to Australia from the Asia Pacific Region, they built boats & sailed across.
We do that a lot throughout history –
“It was us, white man,”
“It was us, they were to primitive, to dumb.”
I believe that the Australian indigenous people were actually spawned here in Australia.
I am not big on this “IT ALL HAPPENED IN ONE PLACE CALLED AFRICA” – many of us have discarded Darwinism as a mistaken illusion / fanciful, so hey !!

Why is much of Africa / the Middle East desert ?
If you look at pictures of the dinosaurs & the surrounding greenery / trees etc.
The trees then were the same size as they are today – but / & dino was several times too large to fit in that scene ??
Dino ate all the green stuff & dies out & the desert proves it.
Or Dino is a fabricated bit of history.
DNA /GENETICS would make – MATHEMATICALLY – the surrounding scene as big or as small as its animal kingdom.
We have not been to the moon & Dinosaurs never existed.

John Tillman
Reply to  R Davis
October 19, 2018 7:51 pm


Wow! Where to begin to dispel the insanity.

Yes, 12 humans have walked on the moon. They are not liars, but great Americans. A telescope orbiting the moon can see the landers and rovers left behind.

Dinosaurs not only existed, but they still exist. They’re just not as big as some of them used to be. The height of trees signifies less than the number of them and the amount of edible foliage they produce. Earth’s air was much more enriched in the vital trace gas CO2 during the Mesozoic than now. Hence vegetation could grow more lushly, and herbivores could grow to monstrous sizes.

It would not take humans tens of thousands of years to walk from Africa to Australia. Humans did not need ships to pass from SE Asia to Australia. If they couldn’t see the land of New Guinea or Australia from Indonesia, they could see the smoke of wildfires, so they knew that land lay across the water. Rafts or simple boats would have sufficed for the crossing.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
October 19, 2018 8:00 pm

It doesn’t matter how many of “you” have “discarded” “Darwinism”. The fact is that living things evolve. It’s a consequence of reproduction and the genetic system of all life on Earth.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
October 19, 2018 8:17 pm

Do you suppose that this dig, and so many like it every year for at least two centuries, have been faked?

comment image

Plus all those fossil digs from the Paleozoic, 541 to 252 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs.

Reply to  R Davis
October 20, 2018 6:18 am

“Why is much of Africa / the Middle East desert ?”

Because it is at a latitude where the air in the Hadley circulation is descending:

October 20, 2018 8:23 am

If anyone hasn’t read it yet, please read “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond. 70,000 years of human history where it becomes very clear that humans have grossly affected the environment, made extinct hundreds of species on different continents, and have been “imperialists” around the world since the establishment of agriculture, cities and states.

Reply to  farabi
October 22, 2018 2:46 am

Wow… where do all these science deniers come from… the genome project has shown quite clearly how people moved around the planet… in several places large predators died out at about the same time as humans arrived and the question that is left hanging is: “did changing climate cause the demise of the predators and allow humans to move in” or “did the first small bands of humans cause continent wide die off”… The evidence is pointing in the direction that humans being adaptable capitalised on changing conditions but were not in themselves the cause of the massive die off. North America and Australia… lower sea levels allowed humans to cross to these continents without the need for navigation and sophisticated sailing vessels comes much later. Line of site, inquisitive minds and search for resources/food kept people moving.

October 20, 2018 3:33 pm

I love when they trot out these stories, because they rather contradict the doomy prognostications of man-caused climate change. We darned sure weren’t taking fossil fueled vehicles and plane trips, using hair dryers and ice makers, washing machines and dryers, getting our food from thousands of miles away, etc and so on, back then.

October 20, 2018 4:28 pm

They still believe the mammoth died out from climate change, and then get surprised when they find mammoth bones with spears in them.

John Tillman
Reply to  thingadonta
October 20, 2018 4:47 pm

Just in Wyoming alone:


At the Colby site, atlatl-armed Clovis hunters killed mammoth in a narrow arroyo, then piled up the meat they couldn’t use immediately to form a frozen cache. “Buffalo jumps” were also a common hunting technique.

Other obvious hunting sites were around water sources, to ambush large game bogged down in water or mud. The well-designed Schöningen javelins from over 300 Ka were for instance found at an ancient lakeside.

Bill In Oz
October 21, 2018 3:12 pm

We are not allowed in Australia to state that Aborigines killed off the mega fauna. The Aborigines are all environment friendly. And the Green leftists would all get upset and start frothing at the mouth.

So of course it was the drying out climate which did for them.


Johann Wundersamer
October 22, 2018 2:00 am

Nor is it the case that warmer always defeat nomads. Among cases in point are the Huns and Mongols.

The Huns were decimated by malaria in the Po Valley.

A small remnant was able to return to Mongolia, which today has ~ 3 mil. Inhabitants and resumed life as a horse breeder.

The Mongolian heralds, degenerated into lyrics within a few generations, learned to use musical instruments and zen Buddhism. The remaining riders in their wake returned to Mongolia, breeding horses and shamanism.


Rob JM
October 22, 2018 3:08 am

Funny thing is that Thylacine and Thylacoleo never went extinct on the mainland. Of course scientist refuse to accept evidence from thousands of witnesses or trace evidence like unique footprints. There are at least 7 video’s that show an animal with the unique biometric signature of thylacine and these scientist are too egotistical to even consider looking.

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