Megafauna

It is believed that megafauna initially came into existence in response to glacial conditions.

PalaeontologyAnne Musser © Australian Museum

The extinction of megafauna around the world was probably due to environmental and ecological factors. It was almost completed by the end of the last ice age. It is believed that megafauna initially came into existence in response to glacial conditions and became extinct with the onset of warmer climates.

The Diprotodon was Australia’s largest marsupial living in the Burra area a mere 100 thousand years ago.

These larger than life creatures weighed in between one and two tonnes, stood 2 metres tall and measured 3 metres long

They were a flat footed creature but able to walk ( much like a wombat ) at a pace of some 5 km an hour. A natural herbivore, the diprotodon would eat between 100 and 150 kg of vegetation per day, and eventually died out about 60 thousand years ago. This dates to around the time humans are believed to have first entered Australia.

The discovery of fossils in the Burra area, has excited the most seasoned palaeontologists, describing Burra’s backyard as one of the richer megafauna sites in Australia.

With further promotion the term megafauna may become as synonymous with Burra as copper, adding yet another dimension to the fascinating history of this region. Families are an important visitor group to Burra, and building the Diprotodon story has the potential to extend visitation and drive yield.

Megafauna Fossil Sites of the Burra Region
Rod Wells, Flinders University

The fossilised remains of extinct marsupials were first reported from a site along Baldina Creek in 1889. Amandus Zeitz of the SA Museum visited the area and collected a partial skeleton of Diprotodon australis which at the time was the most complete specimen known from South Australia predating the finds at Lake Callabonna. He also collected the fossilised remains of the giant ‘emu’ Genyornis, the marsupial ‘lion’ Thylacoleo, and the Tasmanian Devil Sarcophilus.

fossil site map

com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/fossil-site-map.jpg" width="254" height="417" />Today we know of over seven fossil yielding localities in the region to the east of Burra.

Associate Professor Rod Wells of Flinders University, and Professor Rainer Grun of the Australian National University, revisited the Burra sites in 2001. During their visit they met an amateur naturalist, Mr. Robert Heading of Mongolata . Mr Heading alerted them to further fossil localities in the Red Banks area along Baldina Creek. Subsequent prospecting further downstream revealed many small outcrops of weathered bone and fragments of the distinctive Diprotodon tooth enamel leading ultimately to the discovery of articulated skeletal remains of Diprotodon and a Tasmanian tiger, Thylacinus.

The Baldina and Burra Creek fossils occur in fine grained siltstones and mudstones.

Bones excavated from deep below the weathered surface sediments, are well preserved. Specimens are difficult to locate and extract. Excavations require skilled palaeontologists with years of training and extensive experience. It is illegal to remove fossilised remains from their resting place. Severe penalties apply to persons who attempt to do so.

 

The skull and jaws pictured to the right are on display at the South Australian Museum.

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