Extinctions of herbivorous mammals in the late Pleistocene of Australia in relation to their feeding ecology: no evidence for environmental change as cause of extinction

Johnson, C.N., and Prideaux, G.J. (2004) Extinctions of herbivorous mammals in the late Pleistocene of Australia in relation to their feeding ecology: no evidence for environmental change as cause of extinction. Austral Ecology, 29 (5). pp. 553-557.

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Abstract

There has been debate over the cause of the extinction of 'megafauna' species during the late Pleistocene of Australia. One view is that environmental change, either natural or human-induced, was the main factor in the extinctions. Some support for this comes from the observation that, among herbivores, most of the species that went extinct were apparently browsers rather than grazers. Browsers would presumably have been more dependent on shrubland and woodland habitats than grazers, and it has been argued that such habitats might have contracted in response to aridity or changed fire regimes in the late Pleistocene. Here, we test this idea by comparing extinction rates of browsers and grazers in the late Pleistocene, controlling for body mass in both groups. We show that in both browsers and grazers the probability of extinction was very strongly related to body mass, and the body mass at which extinction became likely was similar in the two groups. It is true that more browsers than grazers went extinct, but this is largely because most very large herbivores in the late Pleistocene were browsers, not because large browsers were more likely to go extinct than similarly sized grazers. This result provides evidence against some forms of environmental change as a cause of the extinctions.

Item ID: 8295
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1442-9993
Keywords: browser; climate change; extinction rates; grazer; megafauna; Marsupialia; overkill; quaternary
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2010 23:18
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060899 Zoology not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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