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Understanding the population demography, species distribution and biogeography of Australia’s megafauna is essential for understanding their extinction. This process is only just beginning, and this article discusses these aspects while concentrating on a particular region; the southern Lake Eyre Basin (SLEB). It is also the first detailed description of the distribution of megafauna across that region of central Australia. The data are based on an extensive longitudinal study of 41 palaeontological sites spread across 250 000km2. Megafauna adaptation and response to extensive environmental change during the late Quaternary is reflected in the composition and distribution of 21 megafauna species found across the region. A flexible migration strategy in response to wet/arid cycles saw occupation focusing on riverine and lacustrine environments formed by episodes of southerly monsoon incursion into the northern Lake Eyre basin. The supply of animals to the area was largely derived from endemic populations inhabiting western parts of southeastern Australia, where the majority of SLEB species are also found. Diprotodon reflects the adaptive flexibility of some species owing to its particular continental distribution, with a number of semi-arid regions across the continent. A picture of how and when the last of the region’s megafauna disappeared is closer to being understood, with likely terminal dates for Genyornis and Diprotodon now available.
This document has been peer reviewed.