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Climate change’s long-lasting impact on biodiversity

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Evidence of a mass extinction of Australian animals 35 million years ago demonstrates the long-lasting impacts of rapid climate change, according to the ANU Research School of Biology.

Using molecular evolutionary methods in their examination of fossil records, the ANU Research School of Biology team has discovered a mass extinction of pygopodoid geckos occurred at the time when Australia separated from Antarctica 35 million years ago. The team found the extinction was the result of a dramatic drop in global temperatures, which likely led to rapidly changing Australian habitats and huge impacts on animals.

Lead researcher and ANU PhD student, Ian Brennan, said the team’s research “provides evidence that rapid shifts in climate may have profound and long-lasting effects on global biodiversity."

Mr Brennan said the findings also pointed to the emergence and spread of deserts in Australia from about 10 million years ago, which provided ideal habitat in which new pygopodoid gecko species could thrive. 

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