A team of palaeontologists from the Western Australia Museum has uncovered a new site of extinct diprotodon bones in Du Boulay Creek, south of Karratha in the remote Pilbara region.
The Museum describes the site as “unique” because several individuals are located close to each other and, although more research is required, it appears that both adult and juvenile skeletons are present, suggesting the site may have been on a major migration route.
The dig team is recovering several rare and nearly complete diprotodon skeletons, which are partly visible, including sections of skulls, jaws and teeth, which are embedded in hard rock.
The Museum says excavating the bones of these extinct marsupials is critical because they are at risk of heavy abrasion from flooding.
“It’s really exciting to find them,” says Dr Kenny Travouillon, WA Museum Curator of Mammalogy.
“There is so little we know about the evolution of marsupials in Australia that whenever you find a site that has lots of marsupials to dig up, there’s so much we can uncover about their past and their evolution.”
Diprotodon means “two forward teeth.” It is related to koalas and wombats, and is believed to be the largest marsupial to have ever lived. They were about 1.7m tall and 3.8m long, weighing almost 3 tonnes.
They lived in the Pleistocene era, that started about 2.5 million years ago but are thought to have become extinct around 30,000 years ago.
The team has organised a 10-12 day dig.
On October 1991, a worker from the WA Agricultural Protection Board noticed an almost complete fossil of the Diprotodon. The skeleton is on exhibition at WA Museum.
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