New U/Th ages for Pleistocene megafauna deposits of southeastern Queensland, Australia
Gilbert J. Price a,*, Jian-xin Zhao a, Yue-xing Feng a, Scott A. Hocknull b
a Radiogenic Isotope Laboratory, Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, University of Queensland, St. Lucia 4072, Qld, Australia
b Geosciences Department, Queensland Museum, Hendra, Qld, Australia
Arguments over the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna have become particularly polarised in recent years. Causes for the extinctions are widely debated with climate change, human hunting and/or habitat modification, or a combination of those factors, being the dominant hypotheses. However, a lack of a spatially constrained chronology for many megafauna renders most hypotheses difficult to test. Here, we present several new U/Th dates for a series of previously undated, megafauna-bearing localities from southeastern Queensland, Australia. The sites were previously used to argue for or against various megafauna extinction hypotheses, and are the type localities for two now-extinct Pleistocene marsupials (including the giant koala, Phascolarctos stirtoni). The new dating allows the deposits to be placed in a spatially- and temporally constrained context relevant to the understanding of Australian megafaunal extinctions. The results indicate that The Joint (Texas Caves) megafaunal assemblage is middle Pleistocene or older (>292 ky); the Cement Mills (Gore) megafaunal assemblage is late Pleistocene or older (>53 ky); and the Russenden Cave Bone Chamber (Texas Caves) megafaunal assemblage is late Pleistocene (55 ky). Importantly, the new results broadly show that the sites date prior to the hypothesised megafaunal extinction ‘window’ (i.e.,30–50 ky), and therefore, cannot be used to argue exclusively for or against human/climate change extinction models, without first exploring their palaeoecological significance on wider temporal and spatial scales.