Man and megafauna in Tasmania: closing the gap

Richard Gillespie, Aaron Camens, Trevor H. Worthy, N. Rawlence, C Reid, Fiona Bertuch, Vladimir Levchenko, Alan Cooper

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)


    Recent discussion on the late Pleistocene extinction of the Australian megafauna has revolved around interpretation of several key fossil sites in Tasmania. It has been suggested that humans did not arrive in Tasmania until after the megafauna became extinct, or did not hunt now extinct megafauna, and therefore that humans cannot be implicated in the extinctions. Radiocarbon results from these sites indicate that the youngest extinct megafauna are close to charcoal ages from the oldest archaeological deposits, although difficulties have arisen in establishing chronologies because most relevant sites have ages near the limit for radiocarbon analysis.We report a series of new radiocarbon ages, δ 13C, δ 15N and C:N ratios on collagen and dentine fractions from skeletal remains in the Mount Cripps karst area and the Mowbray Swamp, both in northwestern Tasmania, and discuss the reliability of ages from these and other sites. We also report the discovery of an articulated Simosthenurus occidentalis skeleton at Mt Cripps, that represents only the second directly-dated extinct megafaunal taxon with a reliable age <50 ka cal BP from Tasmania.Our results suggest that C:N ratios measured on collagen or dentine are not an infallible guide to radiocarbon age reliability. We confirm previous reports of a temporal overlap between the megafaunal and archaeological records in Tasmania, but the presence of archaeological evidence and megafauna with the same age at the same site has not yet been demonstrated. At least two megafaunal taxa-the now-extinct Protemnodon anak and a giant Pleistocene form of the extant Macropus giganteus-were still present in Tasmania after 43 ka, when human crossing of the Bassian landbridge from mainland Australia first became sustainable.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)38-47
    Number of pages10
    JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2012


    • Australia
    • Collagen
    • Extinction
    • Megafauna
    • Radiocarbon


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