Giant Marsupial Graveyard Unearthed in Australia
by Jennifer Welsh
A treasure trove of giant marsupial fossils — including one named Kenny — has been uncovered in Australia. The bones will help researchers better understand these ancient pouched mammals, and figure out why they went extinct.
These giant marsupials of the genus Diprotodon lived in what is now Australia from about 1.6 million years ago up until about 25,000 to 50,000 years ago. They roamed the continent eating vegetation, but died out when large numbers of humansmoved into the area. Being such enormous creatures — standing at 13 feet (4 meters) and weighing up to 6,100 pounds (2,800 kilograms) — Diprotodon likely had to scarf down as much as 330 pounds (150 kg) of vegetation daily, research has found.
The researchers uncovered the remains of about 50 Diprotodon individuals at BHP Billiton Mitsui Coal’s South Walker Creek mine site in Queensland where researchers have been excavating since 2009. The fossils date back 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, the researchers told the BBC…
(read more: Live Science)
(image: extinct marsupial mega-herbivore, Diprotodon optatum, by Peter Murray )
Back in 2006, a little bone was discovered southeast of Melbourne, Australia by palaeontologists. This has been identified as a tarsus (ankle bone) belonging to a ceratosaur that will now shed light on how dinosaurs spread themselves on this vast planet; which of course was very different from what we see in NASA satellite photos of today.
“The first evidence in Australia of ceratosaurs, a major group of
meat-eating dinosaurs that lived 125 million years ago, lends weight to the idea that this continent was once a melting-pot of dinosaur diversity.” (source)
The paper, which has been published on Naturwissenschaften, talks about the evolution and migration of dinosaurs over the millions of years, especially with the fact that Australia was once part of the super-continent, Gondwana. Members of Ceratosauria came into play during the Jurassic period, and then began to continually evolve as the (millions of) years passed.
“The ceratosaur fossil, an ankle bone (tarsus) only six centimetres wide, was discovered in 2006 near the seaside town of San Remo, 87 kilometres southeast of Melbourne.” (source)
I have not yet been able to read the paper “First Ceratosaurian Dinosaur from Australia”, but knowing only the tarsus (pictured above) has been discovered makes me wonder what else is in the paper (discoveries, examinations, etc) that is not published on general news sites. It’s pretty difficult to go off of one bone, especially when it is not something as distinct as a skull, for example. But it is a tarsus, and those are distinctive on animals like theropods, and especially ceratosaurs; those bones being pretty avian-like. Australia’s known for not having the best of records for dinosaurs (though that has been changing over the years), so anything like this is exciting and big news.
Here’s another article from smh.com.au (where the photo above is from) you can read about this new dinosaur. And I found another from cosmosmagazine.com. I’ll be looking into this story to see if I can find out any other information. I’m pretty excited to see what exactly is going on with this, and published papers done by these professionals definitely are of a better source than general news sites. So much to look into with this!