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2 March 2016
Humans were responsible for extinction of Emu ancestor

A team of archaeologists from the University of Colorado at Boulder (USA) have been investigating one of the reasons why the giant flightless ancestor of the Emu may have been driven to extinction. The bird in question is the Genyornis newtoni, which grew to over 2 metres high an d weighed between 220 and 240 kilogrammes.
     It roamed the Australian continent 50,000 years ago, at a time when it is believed that the early humans arrived. It would appear that these early humans had developed a taste for the unfortunate bird's eggs, thus playing a significant part in their decline by restricting their reproduction.
     The evidence for this claim was found in the analysis of burnt eggshell fragments. First the eggs were dated using optical stimulated luminescence dating technique, which was corroborated by radiocarbon dating. Then the burnt sections were analysed by studying the amino acid decomposition, which proved that the burning could not have been caused by natural wildfire, but was more concentrated and deliberate.
     Professor Gifford Miller, Associate Director at Colorado University, is quoted as saying "We consider this the first and only secure evidence that humans were directly praying on now-extinct Australian megafauna. We have documented these characteristically burned Genyornis eggshells at more than 200 sites across the continent".

Edited from Popular Archaeology (29 January 2016)

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