A major study of ancient DNA has produced a grim outlook for endangered animals as a result of climate change.
Adelaide-based scientist Professor Alan Cooper is the head of the Australian Ancient DNA Centre, and will present his findings to the University of Adelaide today.
He says the study has helped identify the process and consequences of extinction.
Professor Cooper says his research conducted on bisons, mammoths and sabre-tooth cats produced worrying evidence suggesting climate change tens of thousands of years ago was largely responsible for their extinction.
“Our current idea is that humans were the cause of all the megafauna extinctions, is things like large mammoths and lions and ground-sloths, well humans might have killed the last members, but it looks climate change is the thing that did all the damage in the first place,” he said.
Professor Cooper says many scientists already fear that large animals in Africa such as great apes, elephants and rhinoceroses will be extinct within 20 or 30 years.
He says he hopes his study brings about more awareness of the aftermath of climate change.
“What I really want to do is use that sort of research to identify what happens in the process of extinction,” he said.
“What are the signs, so we can start measuring what we’ve got around us today and try to determine what’s at greatest risk of being extinct and in particular what the consequences of that are.”