Food webs, Classification and Biodiversity

Additional secondary activities to accompany the Gould League Food webs, Classification and Biodiversity kit.


Analysing scientific explanations
for megafauna extinction

Level: 5 & 6
Curriculum Area: Science and SOSE


Prior to the arrival of humans in Australia our fauna included some giant creatures (Megafauna) such as the diprotodon and giant kangaroo. Megafauna (such as giant elephants and birds) were common on other continents as well. In fact Africa is the only continent to retain its megafauna (giraffes, elephants etc).

It's thought that when humans arrived in Australia (40,000 - 60,000 years ago) they hunted the megafauna and possibly caused the extinction of these creatures. It's thought that Africa's megafauna has survived because humans evolved there allowing the fauna to develop fear of hunters.

Some scientists dismiss these ideas and believe that climate change caused the extinction of Australia's megafauna. An excellent reference for this topic is Tim Flannery's The Future Eaters.



  • Compare explanations for Australian's megafauna extinctions.
  • Identify reasons for popular acceptance of certain scientific explanations.
  • Analyse scientific explanations.

Materials and preparation

Picture cut-outs from the Gould League's Food Webs, Classification and Biodiversity activity books displayed on a whiteboard as an Australian food web 20,000 years ago - include the giant kangaroo, diprotodon.

Web research on articles that discuss the theories to do with megafauna extinction - perhaps search for megafauna extinction on the ABC Science website at

Background information about Tim Flannery's Future Eaters ideas - from his book or the ABC videos of the same title.


Refer to the megafauna food web displayed on the whiteboard and guide a discussion about the impact of the arrival of humans (Aborigines) in Australia.

Explore Tim Flannery's Future Eaters ideas by discussion, by referring to his Future Eaters book or by viewing the Future Eaters videos.

Use the information found on websites to analyse the arguments for and against Tim Flannery's theories.

In small groups the students discuss the ideas and draw their own conclusions about the extinction of the megafauna. These ideas should then be reported back to the class. During the discussion ensure that the students understand that there is no way of ensuring which ideas are correct and that they realise a lot of scientific information is still based on conjecture.


Find out about the influence of other popular scientists such as David Attenborough, David Suzuki, etc.

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