Climate change frames debate over the extinction of megafauna in Sahul (Pleistocene Australia-New Guinea)
Around 88 large vertebrate taxa disappeared from Sahul sometime during the Pleistocene, with the majority of losses (54 taxa) clearly taking place within the last 400,000 years. The largest was the 2.8-ton browsing Diprotodon optatum, whereas the ∼100- to 130-kg marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, the world's most specialized mammalian carnivore, and Varanus priscus, the largest lizard known, were formidable predators. Explanations for these extinctions have centered on climatic change or human activities. Here, we review the evidence and arguments for both. Human involvement in the disappearance of some species remains possible but unproven. Mounting evidence points to the loss of most species before the peopling of Sahul (circa 50-45 ka) and a significant role for climate change in the disappearance of the continent's megafauna.