Australia is a unique place wherea huge number of unusual animals. Today this continent is associated with an abundance of poisonous snakes, spiders and other dangerous creatures, but for millions of years, besides them, real giants lived on these lands. The group of unique animals that lived on them between 1.6 million and 40 thousand years ago is usually called Australian megafauna... Within the framework of this article, I propose to get acquainted with ten representatives of this group who could become characters in science fiction films. Among them are giant lions and kangaroos, as well as a certain Zaglossus hackettiwho looks like some strange alien creature. But let's not drag out and study the ancient animals of Australia.
It is important to note, that megafauna in a broad sense is an aggregatespecies of animals whose body weight exceeds 45 kilograms. Formally, people can be included in this concept, but scientists do not. In the group of giants, they include animals that are much larger than humans in size: elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and so on. This article will focus on extinct animals.
- 1 Diprotodon
- 2 Procoptodon
- 3 Giant goose
- 4 Marsupial lions
- 5 Myolania
- 6 Moa
- 7 Eagle Haasta
- 8 Megalania
- 9 Quincana
- 10 Zaglossus hacketti
Diprotodons (Diprotodon) are the largestof the marsupial animals known to science. The growth of these herbivorous creatures reached 3 meters, and their body weight was sometimes equal to 2.5 tons. Diprotodons had inwardly curved toes that were great for digging holes. However, given their large size, it is unlikely that these creatures lived in burrows. Scientists believe that this feature was passed on to them from smaller distant ancestors. And the closest living relatives of diprotodons are wombats.
Diprotodons disappeared 55 thousand years ago.Before the appearance of people in Australia, they could only be afraid of giant lizards and crocodiles. The exact cause of the extinction of diprotodons is unknown. Most likely, this was due to climate change or they were simply exterminated by people.
Procoptodons (Procoptodon), in fact, weregiant kangaroos. Their growth reached 3 meters in height, which allowed them to reach the topmost leaves on the trees. The forepaws had four long toes with claws, which also helped to get food. Paleontologists found several skeletons of ancient kangaroos and noticed that they had very strong skulls - a sign of powerful jaws. The legs were also powerful, which indicates their ability to run fast. In the event that it was impossible to escape from the predators, these creatures were brushed off with a strong tail. Procoptodons became extinct about 50 thousand years ago and the exact cause of their extinction is also unknown.
Interesting fact: in 2009, giant kangaroos are featured in the Discovery Channel documentary "Giant Monsters". They are shown in the part titled "The Giant Ripper".
Giant geese also lived in ancient Australia(Genyornis newtoni) with a height of 2 meters and a body weight of about 240 kilograms. According to scientists, they were herbivores because they did not have sharp claws like birds of prey. But they had a large and powerful beak, which, most likely, could even chop nuts. In May 2010, archaeologists explored caves in Australia and found rock paintings depicting these animals. Based on this, it can be assumed that these birds were very important for the life of ancient people as a source of food. This could be the reason for the extinction of giant geese about 40 thousand years ago.
Marsupial lions (Thylacoleo) were 1.5 meters tall inlength, that is, much less than the animals described above. But at the same time, they were one of the most dangerous inhabitants of Australia at that time. The teeth of the marsupial tigers were like those of rodents, that is, in the hunt they used not the fangs, but the front two teeth. According to researchers, marsupial lions could even gnaw bones with their teeth. The bite force was about twice that of today's tigers. Thus, it can be assumed that marsupial lions killed their victims in a matter of seconds. They lived at the same time as the first people in Australia and, most likely, they were exterminated by them.
Myolania (Meiolania) - this is one of the mostthe largest turtles in history. Its body length reached 5 meters, and its head was covered with many horns. Two horns were located on the sides, so the turtle had a “devilish” appearance to some extent. For the first time, the remains of myolania were found in 1879, in the Australian state of Queensland. At first, the researchers suggested that they were dealing with a huge lizard. But then they realized that they had found a completely new species of animals for science. Thorns were also found on the tail of the animal, which were clearly used to protect against predators. Unusual creatures died out 2 thousand years ago and the reasons, as always, are unknown.
See also: What animals lived on our planet during the time of the dinosaurs?
Huge moa birds (Dinornithiformes) did not inhabitin Australia and nearby New Zealand. The growth of the tallest representatives of these birds reached 3.6 meters, and their body weight was 250 kilograms. These birds ate plants and led a very peaceful life. For a long time, their lives were not in danger, so they were practically deprived of plumage. However, when the first humans appeared in Australia, the carefree life of these creatures came to an end. Hunters exterminated them in just 100 years, without allowing the birds to develop a protective strategy. You can read more about these birds in this article.
See also: In Crimea, the remains of the largest bird in history are found
The Haast eagle (Harpagornis moorei) was one of thenatural enemies of the moa bird and you have already seen it in the image above. The wingspan of this predator reached 2.6 meters, and the body weight of some individuals was 14 kilograms. The most dangerous feature of these eagles was their agility and speed. Watching victims from tall trees, they literally fell on them and tore them to shreds. Eagles' claws were so strong that they could break bones. There is evidence that these creatures sometimes even attacked people. They became extinct almost at the same time as the moa birds. On the one hand, they were exterminated by people, and on the other, they could not find food due to the disappearance of flightless birds.
Megalania (Varanus priscus) is the largestlizard in history. At the moment, scientists have not been able to find a single complete skeleton of these creatures. Because of this, information about their sizes is different everywhere. Someone speaks about 6 meters in length, while others about 9 meters. Also, some researchers believe that this animal had saliva that was full of dangerous bacteria. In general, these giants are the ancestors of modern monitor lizards, about which we have a separate article.
Quinkana were one of the fewcrocodiles that felt great on land. Their body length reached 6 meters, and their legs allowed them to raise their bodies high above the ground. That is, unlike modern crocodiles, these predators could easily catch up with their prey. They also had sharp teeth, which modern crocodiles also cannot boast of - they simply grab and hold their victims until they die. Like many representatives of the Australian megafauna, quincans became extinct about 40 thousand years ago due to extermination by humans.
Finally it's time to talk about the weirdcreatures of the species Zaglossus hacketti, which do not have a Russian name. The length of these animals did not exceed 1 meter, and the weight was usually 30 kilograms. That is, they were roughly like modern sheep. They had an elongated face like anteaters. In principle, they led almost the same way of life. Unusual animals fed on ants, larvae and worms, and their body covered with thorns saved them from predators. Even these unusual creatures became extinct several thousand years ago due to human activities.
If you liked reading about unusualanimals, I recommend the material about the most toothy creature on Earth. Their mouths contain 80 to 100 teeth, and their body is covered with durable armor. Have you already guessed who we are talking about?