Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mega-marsupials once roamed Australia

Mega-marsupials once roamed Australia. CNN has this interesting story on Australian pre-history. Up to fifty thousand years ago, Australia had megafauna. Of course, humans get the blame for their vanishing.

The article notes, "Marsupial lions, kangaroos as tall as trucks and wombats the size of a rhinoceros roamed Australia's outback before being killed off by fires lit by arriving humans, scientists said on Thursday. The giant animals lived in the arid Nullarbor desert around 400,000 years ago, but died out around 50,000 years ago, relatively shortly after the arrival of human settlers, according to new fossil skeletons found in caves."

Can you imagine a rhino sized wombat? I hope they were better spirited than the rhinos are known to be. Yikes...

Many of these giants died when they fell into the caves where their fossils were discovered. Expedition leader Gavin Prideaux in a new issue of Nature said, "Unwary animals bounding around in the case of kangaroos, or running around in the case of marsupial lions and wombats, fell down these holes, as presumably most were nocturnal. It's very difficult to see a small opening on a flat surface at night."

The Australian megafauna died out shortly after the arrival of humans. The humans used fire-stick farming where lands were deliberately cleared by fires to encourage re-growth. This wrecked havoc on the ecosystem and the big animals on the top died out.

Maybe there is a lost world out there in the Australian Outback. Perhaps a giant Wombat survives alongside the Yowie...

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