Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Palorchestes azeal

The name of this animal (ancient leaper) derived from the fact that its cheek teeth resembled those of modern kangaroos, further finds indicated that it was actually more like a modern tapir in appearance, having a short trunk, possibly used to pull leaves closer and/or strip bark off trees. It is now sometimes called a marsupial tapir. Reconstruction of this species is based on fossils of other related species such as Palorchestes painei, of which more complete skeletons are known. It was a ground-dweller in woodland. It had powerful, sharp claws that are believed to have been used to rip into tree bark. It had strong, high-crowned teeth that indicate it ate mostl very abrasive vegetation.

Other genera of Palorchestidae are Ngapakaldia, and Pitikantia

Further confirmation that early Aboriginal People had indeed met animals of the megafauna came with the discovery in a cave in Arnhem Land of an ancient cave painting of a Palorchestes. Mud-dauber wasps had built a nest over the pigment, and it had subsequently been fossilised by the water running down the cave walls. These nests have been dated indirectly giving a minimum age for the painting of the Palorchestes. At 40,000 BP, and possibly older, it is one of the oldest known cave paintings in the world.

Megafauna in the Dreamtime


Sources & Further reading

  1. Chris Johnson, Australia's Mammal Extinctions, a 50,000 year history, Cambridge University Press, 2006
  2. Tyndale-Biscoe, Hugh, 2005, Life of Marsupials, CSIRO Publishing.
  3. Mary E White, After the Greening, The Browning of Australia, Kangaroo Press, 1994
Author: M.H. Monroe
Last Updated 30/09/2011


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