Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Procoptodon goliah

This was the largest of the sthenurine kangaroos from the Pleistocene, with an estimated weight of about 200 kg, about 2.5 times heavier than the largest living red kangaroo, Macropus rufus. A browsing kangaroo, it had a maximum reach of more than 3 m. It was the more highly adapted to leaf eating than any other sthenurine kangaroo. The short face of the skull allowed it to develop very powerful jaw muscles to eat very fibrous material, probably leaves and stems, probably in forests. It flourished over most of the continent, then at about 50,000 years ago it went extinct, along with many other Australian browsing animals.


Procoptodon goliah, a kangaroo-like marsupial, was the largest kangaroo known to have evolved, weighed 300kg, 5 times heavier than a large red kangaroo, and stood more than 3 m tall. It had long arms and 2 very long fingers that could reach up to pull branches down so it could eat the tree leaves, and unlike kangaroos of the present, it could lift its arms above its head as humans can. The author3 suggests their long arms probably helped them walk on 4 legs, though it could hop like a kangaroo. Its feet were broad, short and hoof-like and with side toes that were well developed, and between toe bones elastic ligaments that gave them bounce, though it has been suggested they probably hopped rather slowly. They had short, thick tails and a pot belly, a very short neck and a very large head, that was short and broad rather like that of humans. It is believed that hopping with such a large head must have been difficult, and probably ungainly to watch. Procoptodon was 1 of 17 species of Sthenurines that inhabited open woodlands in northern Australia.


Naracoort fossils

Sources & Further reading

  1. Tyndale-Biscoe, Hugh, 2005, Life of Marsupials, CSIRO Publishing.
  2. Chris Johnson, 2006, Australia's Mammal Extinctions, a 50,000 year history, Cambridge University Press.
  3. Cane, Scott, 2013, First Footprints: The epic story of the first Australians, Allen & Unwin

Scott Cane has included in his book, written as a companion to the ABC TV series of the same name, a number of stories from his days living among Aboriginal people in the desert and moving around with them.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 07/11/2013
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