Human Beings Caused Changes in Australia's Plant and Animal Life

Scientists have recently found out that humans caused the extinction of many animals on the Australian continent.

For a long time many experts thought that much of Australia’s animal and plant life became extinct because of climate change thousands of years ago. Now, evidence has turned up in old animal dung found in a Queensland crater that proves that this theory is not true.

When humans arrived in Australia about 40,000 years ago they started hunting animals and burning down large areas of vegetation. This led to big changes in the landscapes of Down Under. Not only were large animals the source of food but at the same time charcoal was produced in large amounts, showing that fires were made.

Scientists say giant kangaroos, lions, birds and reptiles were among the animals that died out at that time. Vegetation also changed when human beings arrived. Rainforest was replaced by leathery scrub and other bushes. This took place, however, after the animals became extinct.

Experts suggest that if there had been a change in climate at that time it was not very important. The discussion on whether people caused the changes in animal and plant life in Australia or not has been going on for over half a century, but now it seems that clear evidence is here.

For example, humans came to Tasmania about 40,000 years ago, when today’s island was still connected to Australia’s mainland. Scientists found out that many prehistoric animals were still there at that time

All in all, about 90% of all the large prehistoric animals on the continent disappeared soon after humans settled there.

Prehistoric Lion of Australia

Prehistoric Lion of Australia



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  • amount = quantity
  • arrive = come to
  • cause = lead to
  • century = a hundred years
  • charcoal = a black material made of burned wood that you can use as fuel
  • connect = link to
  • disappear = vanish ; to go away and not be seen any more
  • Down Under = another word for Australia
  • dung = the solid waste of animals
  • evidence = proof , data, information
  • extinction = when an animal or plant dies out
  • however = but
  • humans = people
  • landscape = area of countryside
  • leathery = made of leather
  • mainland = the main area of land, not the islands
  • prehistoric = early; before anything was written down
  • prove = show
  • recently = a short time ago
  • replace = to take something’s place
  • reptile = animal whose body temperature does not change and always stays the same; it usually lays eggs to have babies
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a laboratory
  • scrub = low bushes and trees that grow in a dry area
  • settle = to live in a place for the first time
  • source = basis, where something comes from
  • suggest = hint, think