Extinction of eastern Sahul megafauna coincides with sustained environmental deterioration

Thumbnail Image
File version

Version of Record (VoR)

Hocknull, SA
Lewis, R
Arnold, LJ
Pietsch, T
Joannes-Boyau, R
Price, GJ
Moss, P
Wood, R
Dosseto, A
Louys, J
Olley, J
Lawrence, RA
Griffith University Author(s)
Primary Supervisor
Other Supervisors
File type(s)

Explanations for the Upper Pleistocene extinction of megafauna from Sahul (Australia and New Guinea) remain unresolved. Extinction hypotheses have advanced climate or human-driven scenarios, in spite of over three quarters of Sahul lacking reliable biogeographic or chronologic data. Here we present new megafauna from north-eastern Australia that suffered extinction sometime after 40,100 (±1700) years ago. Megafauna fossils preserved alongside leaves, seeds, pollen and insects, indicate a sclerophyllous forest with heathy understorey that was home to aquatic and terrestrial carnivorous reptiles and megaherbivores, including the world’s largest kangaroo. Megafauna species diversity is greater compared to southern sites of similar age, which is contrary to expectations if extinctions followed proposed migration routes for people across Sahul. Our results do not support rapid or synchronous human-mediated continental-wide extinction, or the proposed timing of peak extinction events. Instead, megafauna extinctions coincide with regionally staggered spatio-temporal deterioration in hydroclimate coupled with sustained environmental change.

Journal Title

Nature Communications

Conference Title
Book Title




Thesis Type
Degree Program
Publisher link
Patent number
Grant identifier(s)
Rights Statement
Rights Statement

© Crown 2020. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Item Access Status
Access the data
Related item(s)

Environmental sciences



Persistent link to this record

Hocknull, SA; Lewis, R; Arnold, LJ; Pietsch, T; Joannes-Boyau, R; Price, GJ; Moss, P; Wood, R; Dosseto, A; Louys, J; Olley, J; Lawrence, RA, Extinction of eastern Sahul megafauna coincides with sustained environmental deterioration, Nature Communications, 2020, 11 (1), pp. 2250