Why did the Thylacine and Tasmanian devil disappear from the mainland and why have so many mammals been lost from mainland Australia in the last 200 years?
Australian fauna is unlike any species found elsewhere in the world – there are no other mammals like a wombat, Tasmanian devil or Platypus!
Australia has unique and special fauna, same as New Guinea, where all 3 of the world’s major lineages of living mammals (Monotremes, Marsupials and Placental mammals) can be found. Monotremes occur nowhere else and the Australian/Papuan region is the global centre of such marsupial diversity.
Over the past 1000’s of years, there has been extinction of so many species.
Well known examples are the dinosaurs and in more recent times, the Dodo and the Tasmanian Tiger.
Of course there was a mass extinction of Australia’s megafauna such as the huge Wombat (Diprotodon), birds which were 3 x larger than emus like the Dromornis stirtoni, but nothing has caused the rate of loss that we are seeing today caused by us – humans.
When people arrived, megafauna disappeared due to increase in fire, drier climates and a change in vegetation. Recent extinctions have been attributed to many factors including habitat loss, disease, fire, European settlement, predation introduced animals such as foxes and feral cats. It’s believed that if foxes and cats had never been brought to Australia, none of the recent animal extinctions (except for the thylacine) would’ve happened
Australia has highest rate of mammal extinctions in the past 200 years, including the famous Thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, and unless we act swiftly, we will be adding many more to our growing extinction list!
During Australia’s megafauna extinctions, the Australian environment changed in many ways. Extinction of Australian megafauna might have disrupted ecosystems. Many played a significant role in managing the ecosystems, like many of our existing fauna. They ate fruit and fungi and provided a very valuable ecological service, dispersing seeds and spores. They also foraged, turned the soil and dug burrows – all necessary activities to improve soil condition and help plants to regenerate. This made them all ecosystem engineers and existing native fauna, still play this significant role.