Kangaroos have lived at Mungo for millions of years.

Kangaroos have lived at Mungo for millions of years.

The earliest kangaroo-like animals – Nambaroo gillespieae – were ranging around northwest Queensland 25 million years ago. Another couple of kangaroos Balbaroo fangaroo and Cookeroo hortusensis have been found as 15-23 million year old fossils at Riversleigh in Queensland.

Mungo, in south-western New South Wales, is also a rich source of fossils. The site is famous for human history, but it is also significant for megafauna fossils.

Procoptodon goliah, the largest kangaroo to have ever lived, has been found in Mungo sediments. This slow giant was 2.2m tall and weighed around 200 kg. It had huge long arms and large curved claws for grasping tree branches to get to the leaves it ate.

Procoptodon goliah Australian Geographic
Procoptodon goliah (far right) Australian Geographic/Image credit Peter Schouten

Some Aboriginal People in NSW have oral history of a huge kangaroo with long arms that was dangerous to people. It is possible that Procoptodon lived with Aboriginal People for as long as 30,000 years. Read more here

Procoptodon goliah Australian Geographic
Procoptodon goliah and other megafauna at Mungo/Australian Geographic/Image credit: Laurie Beirne

A large extinct wallaby, Protemnodon, has also been found at Mungo. Fossils of Sthenurus – a large browsing kangaroo – have also been found close by.

Protemnodon anak & P. tumbuna/Nature/Peter Schouten
Protemnodon anak & P. tumbuna/Nature/Image credit Peter Schouten

Two large extinct macropods (I can’t find their exact species yet) also lived at Mungo. They may have been Macropus pearsoni – who had a large range extending from Cape York and the Darling Downs in Qld to Lake Kanunka in the far north of SA ; and Macropus titan – who ranged from Wellington Caves, NSW, Naracoorte Caves, SA to near Melbourne VIC – who looked like a much larger Eastern Grey Kangaroo.

How did Procoptodon and Protemnodon die out? It is one of the great debates that has raged in Australia for decades. Mungo may have provided the answer.

Griffith University researchers searched for megafauna fossils in areas that also showed continuous occupation by Aboriginal People. Mungo was the perfect location, with a known timeline of Aboriginal occupation going back 50,000 years. They found megafauna surviving 33,000 years ago – at least 17,000 years after the arrival of Aboriginal People.

As this article in The Conversation shows, the theory that Aboriginal People wiped out the megafauna is not supported by science.

Learn more about Aboriginal History and megafauna at Mungo on our 4 day private Mungo Outback Journey

Read about our Aboriginal Guide’s in-depth knowledge of Mungo plants

 

 

LINKS:

https://australianmuseum.net.au/procoptodon-goliah

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/austropalaeo/2015/12/fossil-factfile-procoptodon

https://goo.gl/images/AgZmnn

http://theconversation.com/aboriginal-australians-co-existed-with-the-megafauna-for-at-least-17-000-years-70589

https://goo.gl/images/R56qTw

https://goo.gl/images/fA41dN

Built for the birds – Welcome Swallows and the Mungo Woolshed.

Built for the birds – Welcome Swallows and the Mungo Woolshed.

Mungo in late November is hot. By 11.30am walking outside is unattractive, no matter how captivating the big mob of Emus look in the heat shimmer. The historic rough-sawn bulk of the Mungo Woolshed promises relief, so I duck inside.

Emus at Mungo National Park

Just above my head, a Welcome Swallow dismisses me with a glance. Elegant and haughty, swallows are creatures of the air, not of the land. Humans, it seems, are nothing more to them than builders of convenient eaves for swallow nest sites.

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I scan the large room. No wonder the swallow seemed calm. The woolshed is full of swallows. I see thirty on the ceiling braces of one alcove. Each rafter holds a swallow, and every few minutes a soft blue blur reveals another swallow entering.

welcomeswallow271116p06wmlowres

Welcome Swallows are high speed aerial acrobats. They fly endlessly without tiring, sometimes completing figures-of-eight around your legs as you walk across a park. Mostly when you see them flying they are hunting – the small insects they prey on are invisible to our eyes, but the swallow’s acrobatic manoevres are the hunter in pursuit.

But the middle of the day in The Outback is hot. Even the insects seek shade (have you ever walked into an Outback dunny* on a hot day to find it full of flies? They get hot too!) Perhaps the swallows find it hard to hunt in very high temperatures and take a siesta in the woolshed.

The Mungo Woolshed may have been built for humans to make money from wool, but it has another purpose now. Its the Mungo Swallow-shed.

Visit the wildlife and heritage of Mungo National Park with us on our 3 day Mungo Outback Journey

 

*dunny: an outhouse toilet.

A great day on Halicat Sydney Pelagic

The oceans of the world are vast, mostly dark and unknown, especially to land-lubbers like me.  I know they are full of life, but I know that in the same way I know the earth spins – it’s a cerebral thing, not something I can feel, touch and sense.  Well, if you’re like me, you should try this.

Halicat picks you up early on a beautiful Sydney morning. For the first half hour you enjoy the sights of Sydney Harbour – truly one of the most beautiful city views in the world.  Then a Little Penguin pops up, bobbing on the surface. They are so cute on the water!  The boat stops, and one of the great highlights of this trip happens – there is a rush of photographers, nature lovers and birdwatchers to the back of the boat to ooh and aah at the penguins.  The enthusiasm is exhilarating!

Passing through the heads and into the Pacific Ocean you watch as Sydney falls away behind you.

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Seabirds start to follow the boat at this point.  At first, Silver Gulls and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Then more shearwaters – Flesh-footed and a few Short-tailed – and some Great-winged Petrels.  The shearwaters are true creatures of the ocean – long-winged, buoyant – they float on the air so easily that at times they outrun the boat and have to double back.  More and more join us until there are hundreds flying with us.  Where do they come from? How do they know?

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A scan of the horizon with binoculars shows many more seabirds, singly and in small groups, out there in every direction.  Suddenly, the enormity of this ocean fills your senses.  We are a tiny speck of a boat in this vastness, and already we have attracted hundreds of creatures – at any point on this ocean the same would happen.  There must be millions of seabirds on the Pacific at any one time, but all out of view of our land eyes.

Image < Flesh-footed Shearwater. Pic by Hal Epstein, Halicat

Dolphins join us for a while, then leave.  An Albatross comes by.  The size and power of this creature has to be seen to be believed.  I have watched documentaries about albatrosses, and seen a few off in the distance, but to witness this enormous bird flying over the boat left me speechless.

Image <Shy Albatross. Pic by Hal Epstein, Halicat

We saw many more creatures this day, and shared a warm camaraderie with the many nature lovers on board.  But something about the trip changed me forever.  You know that feeling when something dramatic happens in your life, and from that time onwards you remember things as happening before or after that event.  There was life before Halicat, and now there’s a new and better life after Halicat.

Try it.  The oceans of the world need us to love them.

http://www.halicat.com.au/nature_watching.html

Tips: Halicat runs on the second Saturday of each month. It is weather dependent, but runs most of the scheduled dates.  Take a seasickness medication like Kwells if you get seasick, or if you’re unsure – being sick would ruin your day, and the Pacific is a powerful ocean.  My partner almost didn’t go because he was worried about seasickness, but with meds he was talked into it, and now he is so pleased he did.  Take lunch and some nut/granola bars with you.  The boat provides morning tea, but that disappears quickly.

The trip costs $120AUD per person.