Australia’s MegaFauna Worksheet
Question 2
Diprotodon optatum was about the size of a rhinoceros , though it was 1.7m in height and 3m in
length and was believed to weigh 3000kg for a male. The
Diprotodon superficially resembled a rhino without a horn. Its feet
turned inwards like a wombat’s, giving it a pigeon-toed
appearance. It had strong claws on the front feet, so it may have
been able to dig up roots to eat.
The Diprotodon would have been found throughout
Australia in forests, open wood land and scrub areas as they were
browsing animals that fed on trees and shrubs, which gathered in
small herds
The Diprotodon lived during the Pleistocene period, They became extinct sometime between 45,000
and 25,000 years ago.
The Diprotodon were the biggest living mammals that ever lived, and their closest living relatives are
the wombats.
Zygomaturus tasmanicus, was a close relative of Diprotodon, and is similar to the modern
hippopotamus and pigmy. An adult Zygomaturus was 1m high with
a length of 2.5m long, with a weight of 300-500kg.
The Zygomaturus is believed to have similar dietary habits
to the larger kangaroos, this competition may have contributed to
the extinction of the Diprotodon and Zygomaturus.
The Zygomaturus would have been found in small herds in south-western and south-eastern
Australia, following the waterways as their diet consisted of reeds and sedges.
Procoptodon goliah was the largest kangaroo that ever lived, it
weighed up to 200kg and is twice the size of modern kangaroos.
By balancing on its tail and using its hind toes the
Procoptodon goliah would have been able to reach 3m above the
ground, and was capable of eating very tough leaves and stems.
Though because of its size the Procoptodon wouldn’t have been able to move quickly, although his
limbs indicate he was capable of large hops. The Procoptodon would have been found in areas of a
denser understory as their height allow them to see over the top of it.
Thylacoleo carnifex was a leopard like animal, which was both carnivorous and a tree dweller. An
adult Thylacoleo carnifex was 1.5m long and .75m tall with
a weight of 160kg. The Thylacoleo carnifex was distributed
throughout Australia and is believed to prey on animals much bigger than itself such as the
Diprotodon.
It is believed that the Thylacoleo carnifex had the strongest bite compared to any living or extinct
animals.
Zaglossus hacketti was a sheep sized echidna and a length of 1m. The Zaglossus hacketti also had a
long snout that curved downwards and it was about three times
larger than the modern echidna. It is believed to be the biggest
monotreme.
The Zaglossus hacketti diet consisted of termites, worms, grubs and
beetles.
Dromornis stirtoni was the biggest bird that ever lived. It was a flightless bird that weighed over
500kg and stood nearly 3m tall. Also it is suggested that the Dromornis
stirtoni were relatively fast runners, due to their large muscled legs
which would provide the power.
Although they looked like giant emus, the Dromornis stirtoni are more
closely related to geese. Also they are sometimes referred to as
Mihirung birds
The diet of the Dromornis stirtoni is debatable, some paleontologists are
convinced they were herbivores (eating mainly tough-skinned fruits and
seed pods), but others think at least some dromornithids may have
eaten meat, based on the shape and size of their skulls and beaks.
Megalania prisca was an giant goanna like carnivore, with a length of 5.5m long and weighing 600kg.
The Megalania prisca used its claws for tearing the flesh, within
the Megalania prisca mouth was a collection of large, curved,
serrated teeth used to rip its prey to shreds. The technique used
to detect its prey is similar to modern day reptiles, which by the
use of a fork like tongue, flicks it out to detect rotting carcasses 8km away.
It is believed that the Megalania prisca lived in open woodlands and grasslands and would have
preyed upon both Diprotodons’ and Zygomaturus’s.
Question 3
Ekaltadeta Ima was believed to be a Powerful Toothed Giant Rat Kangaroo, which was 20kg in
weight and was 1.5m in height. It is
believed that Ekaltadeta Ima was an
omnivore.
By referring to the image below, it
demonstrates the dangerous incisors and
serrated carnassials, which would have enabled it to kill
and consume its prey efficiently.
The Palorchestes azael was approximately 2.5m in length, and the height of a horse. The
Palorchestes azael was a herbivorous mammal, which would have
used its large claws to pull down leaves and strip bark from trees.
The Palorchestes azael was initially thought to have been a
common ancestor of the modern day kangaroo, due to the
similarity in the cheek bone, though, the latin name means “ancient
leaper”.
Question 4
Question 5
Australia’s Mega fauna was unique in the way that it was the prime candidate for
domestication. With these domesticated megafauna there would have been a whole new
development for aborigines and Australia. As domesticated animals provide both a sufficient source
of protein compared to wild animals. Also other domesticated animals provide a source of power;
fertiliser and can also provide clothing which then creates a natural cycle.
Domestication had proved so successful in other continents. However, with the extinction
of the megafauna, Aborigines were left with no readily domesticable animals. By the time Europeans
arrived in Australia, a relatively small population of Aborigines was consuming the majority of animal
protein in Australia and, through fire farming, was almost certainly consuming more of the edible
grasses and grains than all the other herbivores. With domesticated animals and crops the story
could have been quite different.
Question 6
The megafauna that were found on Australia were significantly different to other continents, due to
the separation from Antarctica. From this isolation the marsupials that were living there became
mostly free from competition, which allowed the placental animals to rapidly diversify in contrast to
other organisms throughout the world.
Question 7
Due to the recent discovery of a Tasmanian Tiger Skeleton (Thylacine), the questioning of the time
length of extiniction for Australian Megafauna has arisen.
Earlier that year two Diprotodon skeletons have been unearthed. The Preliminary dating of
the Diprotodon bones puts them at 20,000 years old - questioning the theory that the megafauna
died out more than 40,000 years ago.
Though the Tasmanian Tiger bones have been dated back to 33,000years ago, the
Diprotodon was dated back to 20,000years ago.
Question 8
Until at least 30,000years ago Megafauna in Australia still existed. There are two main theories that
attempt to explain the mass extinction of Megafauna, please not that these theories do not only
apply to Australian Megafauna but the mass extinction of Megafauna throughout the world.
The last ice age caused the extinction during the ice age a large amount of the earths water
is trapped at either end of the earths poles. With so much of the water being trapped in ice, the sea
levels drop and the land becomes colder and drier as the rainfall declines. There can be evidence of
this through fossil remains found in Australias central desert. During this time food would have been
scarce and the mass extinction of Megafauna resulted from their destruction of habitat. Also during
these conditions the larger animals would have found it difficult to find enough vegetation to
survive. Consiquently the largest herbivores population decreased and so did the large carnivores
that relied on them for food could not survive.
Humans Caused the Extinction: the extinction of Megafauna also corresponed with the
arrival of humans within Australia. The slow moving herbivours would have been ideal prey for the
new and clever preditors named the humans, as the Megafauna would have been unaware of the
potential threat they held. Since the Megafauna had no previous experience with human contact,
they were believed to be tame, which would consequently mean the Megafauna may have been
hunted quickly and to extinction.
List Of References’
o
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/Procoptodon_BW.jpg
o
http://museumvictoria.com.au/prehistoric/mammals/australia.html
o
http://archive.amol.org.au/discovernet/alcoota/dromornis.asp
o
http://australianmuseum.net.au/Dromornis-stirtoni
o
http://i.livescience.com/images/top10_dragons_megalania.jpg
o
http://www.bio.usyd.edu.au/staff/swroe/Murderousmarsupials.pdf
o
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palorchestes
o
http://www.whitehat.com.au/Australia/Animals/MegaFauna.asp
o
http://www.cap.nsw.edu.au/bb_site_intro/secondary_Modules/Evolution/megafauna.htm
o
http://www.kokogiak.com/megafauna/default.asp
o
http://www.abc.net.au/science/features/megafauna/
o
http://www.bio.usyd.edu.au/staff/swroe/Lostgiants.PDF
o
http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s353703.htm
o
http://www.publish.csiro.au/journals/article.cfm?F=ZO01053.pdf
o
http://www.naturalworlds.org/thylacoleo/introducing/about_marsupials_1.htm
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Australia`s Mega fauna was unique in the way that it