High-quality fossil dates support a synchronous, Late Holocene extinction of devils and thylacines in mainland Australia

Lauren White, Frederik Saltre, Corey Bradshaw, Jeremy Austin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The last large marsupial carnivores - the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilis harrisii) and thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) - went extinct on mainland Australia during the mid-Holocene. Based on the youngest fossil dates (approx. 3500 years before present, BP), these extinctions are often considered synchronous and driven by a common cause. However, many published devil dates have recently been rejected as unreliable, shifting the youngest mainland fossil age to 25 500 years BP and challenging the synchronous-extinction hypothesis. Here we provide 24 and 20 new ages for devils and thylacines, respectively, and collate existing, reliable radiocarbon dates by quality-filtering available records. We use this new dataset to estimate an extinction time for both species by applying the Gaussian-resampled, inverse-weighted McInerney (GRIWM) method. Our new data and analysis definitively support the synchronous-extinction hypothesis, estimating that the mainland devil and thylacine extinctions occurred between 3179 and 3227 years BP.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20170642
    Number of pages4
    JournalBiology Letters
    Volume14
    Issue number20170642
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

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