Professor Steve Webb ‘Empty deserts: Megafauna Demography and Extinction”

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Thursday, 4 July 2024 - 12:30pm to 1:30pm
Professor Steve Webb
Professor Steve Webb

Did mankind kill megafauna, or was it four great Ice Ages that caused Australia’s megafauna extinction? In the talk Steve, Adjunct Professor of Australian Studies at Bond University, will outline the biogeography and general disposition of the megafauna and their predisposition leading to their extinction as he views it.

Link to Steve's book Corridors to Extinction

Steve will lead a walk among the megafauna after the talk.

For more than 60 years there has been debate concerning the reasons for the extinction of the world’s megafauna in and before the last ice age. A dominant argument for the cause in Australia has been the coincidental arrival of humans on the continent. The implication being that they hunted out the biggest species and altered the landscape and ecosystems by the widespread use of fire on the land. This, man kills megafauna, argument was first raised in the early 1970’s to explain North American megafaunal extinctions and is commonly known as the ‘Blitzkreig’ hypothesis. Support for this idea also comes from our deplorable record when it comes to looking after our fauna today and in the recent past.

In this talk Steve wants to briefly discuss an alternative reason for Australia’s megafauna extinctions. That is, they were gradually worn down to extinction by four great Ice Ages that spanned the last least 400-500,000 years. Steve began working on this proposition more than two decades ago and published a full explanation in his book Corridors to Extinction. Underlying support for the ‘Blitzkreig’ scenario in Australia is the common perception that our all megafauna species were evenly dispersed over the whole continent when humans arrived 65,000 years ago. The sudden disappearance of so many animals and species, therefore, could only have been caused by humans. Steve challenged this idea. So in the talk he will outline the biogeography and general disposition of the megafauna and their predisposition leading to their extinction as he views it.

Professor Steve Webb received his B.A (First Class Hons) and Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology, Human Biology and Pre-History from the Australian National University. He was appointed Lecturer there in 1984 and then appointed Research Fellow at the Research School of Pacific Studies (ANU) where he conducted extensive research on the oldest human remains from Lake Mungo. He has presented papers and many guest lectures in Australia, Europe and North and South America. His research and expertise has featured widely in national and international print and film media such as Discovery Channel and Time Magazine. For many years he worked extensively with Aboriginal communities and museums around Australia repatriating ancestral skeletal remains from Australian, UK and European museums. His research has been published widely in national as well as international journals and he has written five books. Webb’s research focuses on Australia’s first humans, palaeoclimate, megafauna biology and environmental change over the last 300,000 years. That required extensive field work across Australia over the past 40 years. He is at present Adjunct Professor of Australian Studies at Bond University on the Gold Coast.

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Lunchtime talks are held at 12.30 pm every Thursday from February to November. Talks last for 1 hour. We welcome donations by gold coins, notes, or electronically. The Friends use donations received at each talk to support Gardens’ programs and development and we thank all those who have donated. 

Unless otherwise indicated, talks are held in the ANBG Theatrette.

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