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Wombat

Did You Know Giant Wombats Used To Roam Australia?

Before humans roamed the earth, we had dinosaurs; not too long after the extinction of dinosaurs we had giant sabre-tooth tigers and big woolie mammoths, but did you know Australia had giant animals of our own? 

While there are a number of large animals known to have walked all areas of the earth, Australia had some especially fluffy and interesting creatures. 

These scientific name for these “fluffies” is mammals while the creatures with scales and feathers, we call megafauna.

In order to be classified as megafauna, an animal’s body mass needs to exceed 40 kilograms. While this sounds huge, there are still megafauna around today – think lions, elephants and giraffes. 

Before elephants and lions, there were mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers which were eventually wiped out during the ice age around 50,000 years ago. But it wasn’t just mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers that were wiped out; there were close to 200 species of megafauna from thousands of years ago that disappeared around the time humans began roaming the earth. 

So, why exactly were these animals so much bigger than animals that roam the earth today? Cosmos Magazine journalist Evrim Yazgin said there are several different theories. 

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“Large birds and mammals, in particular, began to emerge after the extinction of the non avian dinosaurs about 66 million years ago,” he said. 

“They were able to fill what was now an empty ecological niche left behind by the world’s most famous giant animals.”

Evrim also said that Ice Age megafauna were likely large in order to adapt to the cold weather.

“Being big would have helped as Earth’s climate cooled,” he said. 

“But some scientists say they were so big because they also had to evolve to compete with others to survive.

“Another is because there was more oxygen and space on Earth due to massive, undeveloped land masses.”

Evrim joins Dr Sophie Calabretto to chat about the magnificent creatures that roamed the land before us and which of these creatures were native to Australia. Tune into the full episode of The Science Briefing below…

Introducing The Science Briefing: a podcast about the science of everything and your new go-to podcast for your snapshot of science news. Hosted by Dr Sophie Calabretto and featuring journalists from Cosmos Magazine.