Temporal range: Late Pleistocene
Stirling & Zietz, 1896
Genyornis newtoni was a large, flightless bird that lived in Australia. Over two metres in height, they became extinct 50±5 thousand years ago. Many other species became extinct in Australia around that time, coinciding with the arrival of humans.
It is not clear to what degree Dromornithidae were carnivores. The massive, crushing beaks of at least of some species suggest that they were a combination of predators and scavengers, much like today's hyenas. Their closest living relatives are waterfowl.
A study has been performed in which more than 700 Genyornis eggshell fragments were dated. Through this, it was determined that Genyornis declined and became extinct over a short period—too short for it to be plausibly explained by climate change. The authors considered this to be a very good indication that the entire mass extinction event in Australia was due to human activity, rather than climate change. However, there is a counter argument that suggests the pattern of long term extinctions of mega fauna as the climate became drier and more arid towards the Last Glacial Maximum, affecting primary vegetation types, may also have been a factor in Genyornis extinction.
In May 2010, archaeologists announced the rediscovery of an Aboriginal rock art painting, possibly 40,000 years old, at the Nawarla Gabarnmung rock art site in the Northern Territory, that depicts two of the birds in detail. Late survival of Genyornis in temperate south west Victoria has also recently been suggested, based on dateable Aboriginal traditions.
- Miller, G. H.; Magee, J. W.; Johnson, B. J.; Fogel, M. L.; Spooner, N. A.; McCulloch, M. T.; Ayliffe, L. K. (1999-01-08). "Pleistocene Extinction of Genyornis newtoni: Human Impact on Australian Megafauna". Science 283 (5399): 205–208. doi:10.1126/science.283.5399.205. PMID 9880249.
- Wroe, Stephen; Field, Judith (2006). "A review of the evidence for a human role in the extinction of Australian megafauna and an alternative interpretation". Quaternary Science Reviews 25 (21–22): 2692. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2006.03.005.
- "Megafauna cave painting could be 40,000 years old". www.abc.net.au. 2010-05-31. Retrieved 2010-05-31.; Gunn, R. C. et al. "What bird is that?" Australian Archaeology 73(2011):1-12.
- Rupert Gerritsen (2011) Beyond the Frontier: Explorations in Ethnohistory, Canberra: Batavia Online Publishing. pp.52-69 ISBN 978-0-9872141-4-0