A palaeontology book featured in Cosmos earlier this year has been awarded the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales’ Whitley Medal recognising the best of Australasia’s zoological literature.
The authors were presented with the medal for “Prehistoric Australasia: Visions of Evolution and Extinction.”
Palaeontologist Professor Mike Archer, from the UNSW Earth and Sustainability Science Research Center and School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, one of the five co-authors says: “Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand and our surrounding islands were — and still are — home to some of the world’s most amazing species.”
The book starts at 3.5 billion years ago with the first evidence of life on Earth and continues through to only a few hundred years ago, when megafaunal species vanished.
UNSW Emeritus Professor Suzanne Hand, another of the authors says: “Australia separated about 50 million years ago from Antarctica and the rest of Gondwana to become a biodiverse island drifting northwards through the Indian Ocean.
“As it did so, our region’s creatures evolved in ways not seen anywhere else on Earth.”
The book, from CSIRO Publishing, covers a wide range of now extinct animals including tree-climbing crocodiles, gigantic venomous lizards, walking omnivorous bats and flesh-eating kangaroos.
Cosmos focussed on the work of palaeoartist Peter Schouten as part of a series on this important area of science.
“It took us around 10 years to bring this publication to completion,” says Prof. Archer. “And Peter’s paintings are the strong, beautiful horse on the back of which this book rides.”