Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Outback Palms – Aboriginal Mythology Agrees with DNA

In a recent issue of Nature, Bowman et al. have shown that DNA analysis of the only species of palm tree present in outback Australia, Livistona mariae, known as the cabbage palm, that  is found only in Palm Creek, diverged from the related species, Livistona rigida, between 7,000 and 31,000 years ago. The nearest site where L. rigida is found to Palm Creek is more than 1,000 km to the north (Nature 483, 248; 2013). According to Bowman et al. these seeds could have been brought to Palm Creek as these dates overlap with the known occupancy of Aboriginal people in Australia (T. Kondo et al. Proc. R. Soc. B; 2012).

In 2013 a text written by a German anthropologist and missionary Carl Strehlow (see in 1895 was translated into English. On a visit to Palm Creek he wrote “There are beautiful 40 to 50 foot high palms here surrounded by gum trees and acacias and the herbs and flowers at their base release a sharp small. How this palm got into the interior of Australia has not yet been established by science.” It is related by Strehlow that according to traditional local beliefs, “the gods from the high north brought the seeds to this place a long time ago”.

Sources & Further reading

  1. Bowman, D. M. J. S., J. Gibson and T. Kondo (2015). "Outback palms: Aboriginal myth meets DNA analysis." Nature 520(7545): 33-33.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 06/04/2015
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