20 September 2003

Australia's Ice Age mega-marsupial

The largest marsupial that ever lived, which roamed through Ice Age Australia, was more than twice as big as previously thought, according to Sydney University research.

The enormous wombat-like diprotodon was closer to three tonnes instead of one, according to a paper published by the Royal Society, an independent British academy of science.

The lead author of the paper, Stephen Wroe, said the research showed that Australia was capable of supporting large Ice Age megafauna. It had been assumed, he said, that Australia's sparsely vegetated prehistoric landscape could not support large vegetarian mammals and, therefore, large carnivores.

'Australian students are spoon fed the notion that Australia could not support big mammals, and that's bollocks,' he told The Age. 'Australian (megafauna) was not the runt of the continental litter.'

Research published in 2001 put the weight of the four-metre-long beast, which nurtured its young in a pouch, at 1.2 tonnes - about twice that of a cow. But Dr Wroe said this was an 'educated guess' and that his team's 'quantitative methodology' put it at 2.8 tonnes, similar to some types of hippopotamuses or rhinoceroses.

Because I am not a southern hemisphere chauvinist, I note one or two confused northern hemisphere bloggers are excited today about a pathetically small guinea pig.

No comments: