Temporal overlap of humans and giant lizards (Varanidae; Squamata) in Pleistocene Australia

Price, Gilbert J., Louys, Julien, Cramb, Jonathan, Feng, Yue-xing, Zhao, Jian-xin, Hocknull, Scott A., Webb, Gregory E., Nguyen, Ai Duc and Joannes-Boyau, Renaud (2015) Temporal overlap of humans and giant lizards (Varanidae; Squamata) in Pleistocene Australia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 125 98-105. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.08.013

Author Price, Gilbert J.
Louys, Julien
Cramb, Jonathan
Feng, Yue-xing
Zhao, Jian-xin
Hocknull, Scott A.
Webb, Gregory E.
Nguyen, Ai Duc
Joannes-Boyau, Renaud
Title Temporal overlap of humans and giant lizards (Varanidae; Squamata) in Pleistocene Australia
Journal name Quaternary Science Reviews   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0277-3791
Publication date 2015-10-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.08.013
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 125
Start page 98
End page 105
Total pages 8
Place of publication Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
An obvious but key prerequisite to testing hypotheses concerning the role of humans in the extinction of late Quaternary ‘megafauna’ is demonstrating that humans and the extinct taxa overlapped, both temporally and spatially. In many regions, a paucity of reliably dated fossil occurrences of megafauna makes it challenging, if not impossible, to test many of the leading extinction hypotheses. The giant monitor lizards of Australia are a case in point. Despite commonly being argued to have suffered extinction at the hands of the first human colonisers (who arrived by 50 ka), it has never been reliably demonstrated that giant monitors and humans temporally overlapped in Australia. Here we present the results of an integrated U–Th and 14C dating study of a late Pleistocene fossil deposit that has yielded the youngest dated remains of giant monitor lizards in Australia. The site, Colosseum Chamber, is a cave deposit in the Mt Etna region, central eastern Australia. Sixteen new dates were generated and demonstrate that the bulk of the material in the deposit accumulated since ca. 50 ka. The new monitor fossil is, minimally, 30 ky younger than the previous youngest reliably dated record for giant lizards in Australia and for the first time, demonstrates that on a continental scale, humans and giant lizards overlapped in time. The new record brings the existing geochronological dataset for Australian giant monitor lizards to seven dated occurrences. With such sparse data, we are hesitant to argue that our new date represents the time of their extinction from the continent. Rather, we suspect that future fossil collecting will yield new samples both older and younger than 50 ka. Nevertheless, we unequivocally demonstrate that humans and giant monitor lizards overlapped temporally in Australia, and thus, humans can only now be considered potential drivers for their extinction.
Keyword Dating
Megafauna extinction hypotheses
Monitor lizards
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Earth Sciences Publications
Official 2016 Collection
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 3 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 3 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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