Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Diprotodon optatum

The largest marsupial that ever lived, it was also the largest known desert-living animal in Australia. It was 3 m long and 2.6 m high at the shoulder. It probably weighed as much as a rhinoceros. Gut contents from fossils found at Lake Callabonna suggest that was probably a browser. The kangaroos in the same area were grazers. It has been tentatively postulated that it may have been semi-aquatic, maybe filling a similar niche to a present-day hippopotamuses. Its remains have been found in the Terrace Site at Riversleigh, as well as sites around most of the periphery of Australia. Some of the fossils were obviously butchered by the Aboriginal People, having marks of stone tools on the bones. Also found at Lake Callabonna were Diprotodon footprints that show that they were covered in fur, which is believed may have helped it survive the glacial periods.

It is thought to be the last survivor of the Australian Pleistocene Ice Age megafauna.

Rock Art

There are early paintings of animals with short legs and large bodies that are believed to have been diprotodonts on rock walls in the Kimberley (Johnson, 2006).

Sources & Further reading

  • Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J. B. Publishing
  • Jennifer Isaacs, Australia Dreaming: 40,000 years of Aboriginal History, New Holland Publishers
  • Chris Johnson, Australia's Mammal Extinctions, a 50,000 year history, Cambridge University Press, 2006
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 05/11/2008
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