Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australian giants lived alongside man for a time

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Giant marsupials, reptiles and flightless birds that once roamed Australia became extinct about 40,000 years ago, later than had been thought and some 5,000 years after humans arrived, a new study suggests.

Controversy has long surrounded when such creatures became extinct in Australia. New equipment that can date teeth and bones has solved the puzzle, Australian researchers said in the latest issue of the journal Science.

"For a long time, we couldn't measure bone and teeth, or how old they (animals) were when they died, that is, when they went extinct," paleontologist Barry Brook at the University of Adelaide in southern Australia told Reuters by telephone.

One of the new techniques used in the latest research was uranium thorium dating, which can gauge when uranium was taken up into the animal's teeth when it was still alive.

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(Image credit: downunderupdate.com)

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