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According to the new archeological findings, it is possible than an Australian giant bird became extinct after humans ate its eggs over 50,000 years ago. The Genyornis newtoni was a very big, flightless bird that belonged to the megafauna that once ruled Australia. The researchers estimate that a single egg was roughly the size of a cantaloupe, weighing approximately 3.5 pounds.
The Genyornis newtoni was a Carnivorous Bird More than Two Meters Tall
According to computer simulations made with the fragments of the bird’s skeleton, the Genyornis newtoni was approximately two meters tall. And the bird was not tall and slim, but rather tall and muscular since the scientists believe it weighed around 227 kilograms. This Gregor Clegane of feathered animals was part of the Dromornithidae species, which were mostly carnivorous. But the scientists think that the Genyornis newtoni was a combination between scavengers and predators.
It’s Possible the Giant Bird Became Extinct after Humans Ate Its Eggs
There are two possible reasons for the extinction of the Genyornis newtoni. The first one is attributed to climate change. While climate change did affect a wide number of species over time and led to the extinction of a great variety of animals, it seems that it is not the case for the giant predator bird in question.
According to the findings, the Genyornis newtoni became extinct after a too short period of time in order for the extinction to be caused by natural causes such as climate change. The last years of the bird coincide with the apparition of the first humans on the Australian continent. Adding the fact that a lot of the egg fragments was found to be processed with fire, there is only a single logical conclusion. The giant bird became extinct after humans ate its eggs.
The Eggshells Were Burnt and Scattered around the Remnants of a Human-made Fire
Eggshells from the Genyornis newtoni’s eggs were found scattered on approximately 2000 sites across the Australian continent. A great majority were buried in sandy places, a common spot chosen by birds to lay their eggs. The sand is warm so it doesn’t only protect them, but also helps them hatch.
Out of the 2000 sites, 200 were special, in the sense that the eggshells prevented evidence of human tampering. The scattered remains of the cantaloupe-sized eggs showed evidence that they were cooked by the early humans.
The team of scientists that worked with the fossilized fragments established that they were exposed to a localized fire source, for example, ember. This means that they weren’t affected by a forest fire that occurs naturally, but that they were cooked by the early humans in order to be eaten.
What is interesting is that the shells were not scattered around without a pattern, but they were clustered together and left by the side of the fire that cooked them. Judging by the amount of shells found in a single spot, it seems that the early humans liked to cook two or three eggs at once.
The Scientists Used Two Different Methods to Determine the Age of the Fossilized Eggshells
In order to find out an accurate approximate age of the fossilized fragments that they found, the researchers used both carbon dating and OSL.
Carbon dating is the most common way to determine the age of fossils. It is a simple procedure that analyzes the decay degree of carbon atoms inside a fossil and then compares it to the levels that were common in a certain era, as carbon concentration modifies every age.
OSL uses a luminescence that is optically stimulated. The method reveals the last time when the quartz grains inside a fossil were last exposed to direct sunlight.
After both measurements, the scientists established that the burnt eggshell fragments were somewhere between 44000 and 54000 years old.
Humans Are the Most Dangerous Species to Have Ever Walked the Earth
This is not the first evidence that points to humans as the reason for the extinction of an entire species. Even compared to great carnivores like the dinosaurs, humans are, by far, the most dangerous species that has ever lived on the planet, being responsible for a wide number of extinctions.
Image source: www.phys.org