“The mainland version of the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) became extinct due to climate change between 8,000 to 3,000 years ago.”
The media reports loudly proclaim that the paper published in the Journal of Biogeology ($6 to rent) suggests that the mainland population was killed off by the ESON, or El Niño/Nina cycle.
Now this may well be a very sound scientific conclusion drawn from the 51 samples examined. However, there are some shaky steps in the logic to end at this proposition.
There are two main differences quoted in the article between the mainland and the island of Tasmania;
1. No dingoes (wild dogs)
2. Reduced human activity
Reduced human activity refers to a well-documented decline in knowledge of tools and techniques for the population of humans remaining in the island once it split from the mainland. Fishing, for example, reduced considerably over the centuries after the land bridge was lost; the theory being that there wasn’t the critical mass to maintain certain specialist activities such as hook-making, especially if the one hook maker died without training an apprentice.
There’s some other evidence worth considering.
- A previous Australian apex predator, the Marsupial “Lion”, died out around 46,000 years ago.
- Humans arrived in the continent of Australia around 65,000 years ago.
- Just like in the American continents, the extinction of megafauna coincided with the arrival of humans.
- The report only sampled DNA from 51 specimens. It seems a small group which to base continent-wide conclusion.
With those factors considered and remembering that the simplest answer is likely to be the correct one, is it really credible that the regular oscillation in high and low pressures wiped out the mainland version of the thylacine given that they’d survived it many times previously?
Or is it more likely that they were displaced as the apex predator on the continent by a two-legged one with technology capable of making hunting weapons?
As with all news these days, it’s always useful to do your own research and attempt to examine the source, rather than the spin.
In this case, the answer is in the summary of the original study;
we suggest that climate change, in synergy with other drivers, is likely to have contributed to the thylacine mainland extinction
That’s somewhat couched language compared to the headlines in the media reports on the study, isn’t it? It’s perfectly reasonable to consider, when expressed that way, that a shift in weather might be a contributing factor to an already stressed population competing with an intelligent and organised group of hunters.
There’s clearly a climate change agenda being pushed with those media reports, but should we ascribe mendacity to the study’s authors?
Probably not, but one wonders whether there was perhaps a hint of a hope that, by using the climate change dogwhistle, they might be future beneficiaries of the gravy train that is climate change research grants?