An artist's impression of Genyornis newtoni. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Nobu Tamura
New evidence suggests that Genyornis newtoni was wiped out because it was tasty and easy to catch.
It's no coincidence that when humans first arrived in Australia more than 50,000 years ago, a significant percentage of its unique inhabitants started to disappear shortly afterwards.
One of these, a 7ft flightless bird known as Genyornis newtoni, would have likely represented a delicious and convenient food source - as would its enormous eggs.
Now for the first time scientists have been able to piece together what brought about this giant bird's untimely demise thanks to the discovery of prehistoric egg shell fragments with scorch marks indicative of a man-made cooking fire.
"We can’t come up with a scenario that a wildfire could produce those tremendous gradients in heat," said study co-author Gifford Miller. "We instead argue that the conditions are consistent with early humans harvesting Genyornis eggs, cooking them over fires, and then randomly discarding the eggshell fragments in and around their cooking fires."
It therefore appears that, like many of the other gigantic creatures that once roamed the Australian wilderness, Genyornis was hunted to extinction soon after humans first arrived in the country.
Being large, tasty and fearless, it seems, is not a good combination when humans are around.
Source: Discovery News | Comments (18)
Genyornis newtoni, Australia