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.

welcomeswallow271116p01wmlowrestext

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.