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On many continents during the last ice age, typically from about 50,000 to 12,000 years ago, species of megafauna that had lived there for hundreds of thousands of years became extinct. Comparatively abruptly, it appears, in most instances.
Either climate change and/or humans caused these megafaunal extinctions. This means, of course, that people likely knew about megafauna: how they looked, how they behaved, how they might be most effectively hunted and so on. Is there a possibility that any fragments of this knowledge have reached us today? Incredibly, the suggestion seems plausible.
Collaboration - Scientists - Australia - Brazil - Shows
A recent collaboration between scientists in Australia and Brazil shows there are many similarities in the oral (and visual) records of now-extinct creatures.
We suggest these similarities derive from those in the nature of Australian and South American megafauna and their geological context, especially in drier parts of these continents where certain megafauna were more common owing to the lack of dense vegetation.
Australia - Megafauna - Species - Years - Exceptions
In most of Australia, megafauna species are considered to have become extinct by about 40,000 years ago although several exceptions are known.
For example, if the horse-sized marsupial tapir (Palorchestes azael) is indeed represented in Kimberley rock art, then it probably survived here until much more recently. A similar conclusion can be drawn about Genyornis, giant flightless birds, their heads "as high as the hills".
Methods - Birds - Tjapwurung - People - Australia
The methods by which these birds were hunted by the Tjapwurung people of southern Australia have come down to us today, suggesting that Genyornis (or something like it) may have survived significantly more recently than the 41,000 years implied by most of its fossil ages.
Indigenous Australians are also known to have co-existed with the lumbering, bull-sized, wombat-like marsupial Zygomaturus trilobus for at least 17,000 years – ample time for details of their nature to have been incorporated into the extraordinarily long cultural memories of Aboriginal people.
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