Friday, June 22, 2012

Everything old is new again

Scientists have unearthed the biggest find yet of pre-historic "giant wombat" skeletons, revealing clues to the reasons for the species' extinction.

The find, in Queensland, Australia, of about 50 diprotodons - the largest marsupial that ever lived - has been called a "palaeontologists' goldmine".

The plant-eating giants, the size of a rhinoceros, weighed up to 2700 kilograms & had backward-facing pouches big enough to carry an adult human. Scientists equate them as genetically relative to today’s wombats.



The fossils are believed to be between 100,000 & 200,000 years old.

The "mega-wombats" appeared to have been trapped in boggy conditions while taking refuge from dry conditions.

The pigeon-toed animals were widespread across Australia about 50,000 years ago, when the first indigenous people are believed to have lived, but they first appeared about 1.6 million years ago.

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There are many things that could block a stormwater drain.

But a wombat?

Imagine the surprise on the faces of the people at the Launceston City Council when they stumbled across a furry critter while viewing video from a stormwater pipe survey recently.



Imagine the surprise on the faces of the people at the Launceston City Council when they stumbled across a furry critter while viewing video from a stormwater pipe survey recently.

The shy little squatter was discovered by engineering development officer Sonia Smith. Ms Smith said that one of the tasks council asked developers to undertake when building a new subdivision was to ensure all their stormwater pipes were working.

"They do that by conducting a remote video camera survey, and they then send the videos into us," Ms Smith said.

"The equipment they use is basically a remote controlled camera, driven by a joystick.

"Sometimes in these videos you see the odd rat or spider, but this is the first time I've seen a wombat."

Ms Smith said the wombat found his or her way into the pipe because it was open at one end.

"It's a 300mm pipe, which is the smallest we use, but it appears that it might be a perfect size for a wombat burrow," she said.

Ms Smith said the wombat will be respectfully nudged on to a new burrow and access to the pipe will be blocked.

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