Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Giant Fossil Wombat Found In Australia

How would you feel if you were taking a gentle stroll through the bush in the Australian Outback, and you suddenly found yourself nose-to-nose with a giant wombat-like creature? Well, this would have been the experience of the first aboriginal people who landed in Australia, as the island continent was at that time home to a creature called Diprotodon.  Diprotodon was probably the largest marsupial that ever walked the planet and made its home in Australia between 2 million and 25,000 years ago.

Previously only fragments of these fossil giant wombats have been discovered, but now scientists are excited because a complete Diprotodon fossil has been discovered in a remote part of Northern Queensland on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The discovery of the complete Diprotodon skeleton will help scientists more accurately assess the size, weight and movements of this huge prehistoric marsupial.  It is thought that Diprotodon could grow up to 14 feet long and weigh up to three tons. Luckily, the giant wombat was a vegetarian, but with its great size and weight, would be able to crush anything in its path.

Scientists are not sure why this giant beast, a member of the Australian megafauna, became extinct, but one fossil bone found in New South Wales, shows signs that it had been pierced with an arrowhead.  As the Diprotodon died out not long after humans first settled in Australia, the question has to be asked as to whether the giant wombat was hunted to extinction?

Hopefully, this amazing fossil discovery in Australia, will help scientists to piece together much more information on Diprotodon, so that we can learn much more about how they lived and what exactly it was that led to their extinction.

Diprotodon - cast of composite skeleton Queensland Museum 

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