The Recently Extinct Plants and Animals Database


Diprotodon optatum Owen, 1838a:362-363, xix

Giant wombat

 

 

Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonyms: Dinotherium australe Owen, 1843; Diprotodon australis Owen, 1844; Diprotodon annextans McCoy, 1861; Diprotodon minor Huxley, 1862; Diprotodon longiceps McCoy, 1865; Diprotodon loderi Krefft, 1873a; Diprotodon bennetti Krefft, 1873b; Diprotodon bennettii Owen, 1877

 

Conservation Status

Last record: 44ka (Johnson et al. 2016)

 

Distribution

Australia

 

Biology

Diprotodon was the first Australian megafauna species to be described, based upon fossils collected by the explorer Thomas Mitchell in 1830 from the world famous Wellington Caves. By coincidence it is rather fitting that the first is also almost certainly the biggest. The maximum weight of males of the Giant wombat (D. optatum) have been estimated to be 2786kg (Wroe et. al. 2004), which would make it the largest known marsupial to have ever lived. It also appears to have been one of the most recent megafauna extinctions (Johnson et al. 2016), along with Zygomaturus trilobus and perhaps some of the sthenurine kangaroos.

 

Hypodigm

Holotype: BM M10796 (Dawson, 1985:66)

Type locality: "coll. by Mitchell, 1830, in "the large cave"" (Dawson, 1985:66)

Other specimens:

QMF44649 ("P3")
NMV P31299 (cranium) (Sharp, 2014)
NMV P151802 (lower mandible) (Sharp, 2014)
NMV P157382 (lower mandible) (Sharp, 2014)

 

Media

"Diprotodon teeth excavated from Wellington Caves. Australian Museum."

Source: MacLennan, Sally. (2020). At the Museum: Have you even seen a two tonne wombat? Central Western Daily, available from: https://www.centralwesterndaily.com.au/story/6837198/at-the-museum-have-you-even-seen-a-two-tonne-wombat/

 

 

Agnozoology

A traditional bunyip account is that of an encounter by mineralogist Charles Bailly with an unknown animal bellowing in the reeds up the Swan River, Western Australia, in June 1801. Although (Michell & Rickard, 1982) hypothesise that it might refer to living Diprotodon.

The explorer Hamilton Hume encountered a 'hippopotamus' in Lake Bathurst, New South Wales in 1821, which might refer to a living Giant wombat (Gilroy, 1976; Michell & Rickard, 1982). Michell & Rickard (1982) included this and another possible encounter.

 

References

Original scientific description:

Owen, Richard. (1838a). Letter in: Mitchell, Thomas L. Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia, with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix, and of the present colony of New South Wales. Vol. 1. London: T. & W. Boone, 343 pp. [relevant citation?]

 

Other references:

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Anderson, C. and Fletcher, H. O. (1934). The Cuddie Springs bone bed. The Australian Museum Magazine 5(5): 152-158.

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Tedford, Richard H. (1994). Lake Callabonna: 'Veritable necropolis of gigantic extinct marsupials and birds'. Abstracts of the fourth conference on Australian vertebrate evolution, palaeontology and systematics, Adelaide, 19-21 April, 1993. Records of the South Australian Museum 1994. [Abstract] [curiously: "possibly a second, smaller species [of Diprotodon]"]

Tedford, R. H., and R. T. Wells. (1990). Pleistocene deposits and fossil vertebrates from the Dead Heart of Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 28: 263-284.

Tedford, R.H., Wells, R.T., and Barghoorn, S.F. (1992). Tirari Formation and contained faunas, Pliocene of the Lake Eyre Basin, South Australia. The Beagle, Records of the Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 9: 173-194.

Tindale, N. B., Fenner, F. J. and Hall, F. J. (1935). Mammal bone beds of probable Pleistocene age, Rocky River, Kangaroo Island. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 59: 103-106.

Trezise, P. (1993). Dream road: A journey of discovery. Sydney: Allen and Unwin. ["[proposes] that an image from Cape York Peninsula is of Diprotodon"*]

Turnbull, William D; Lundelius, Ernest L and Tedford, Richard H. (1992). A Pleistocene marsupial fauna from Limeburner's Point, Victoria, Australia. The Beagle: Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 9: 143-171. [Abstract]

Tyndale-Biscoe, H. (2005). Life of Marsupials. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.

Van Huet, S. et al. (1998). Age of the Lancefield megafauna: a reappraisal. Australian Archaeology 46: 5-11.

Van Huet, Sanja. (1999). The taphonomy of the Lancefield swamp megafaunal accumulation, Lancefield, Victoria. In: Baynes, Alexander and Long, John A. (eds.). Papers in vertebrate palaeontology. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 57: 331-340.

Vanderwal, Ron and Fullagar, Richard. (1989). Engraved Diprotodon tooth from the Spring Creek locality, Victoria. Archaeology in Oceania 24(1): 13-16. [Abstract]

Vickers-Rich, P., T. H. Rich, L. S. Rich and T. Rich. (1997). Diprotodon and Its Relatives. The Little Prehistory Books. Sydney: Kangaroo Press. 25 pp.

Waterhouse, George Robert. (1845). A Natural History of the Mammalia. Volume 1, Containing the Order Marsupiata or Pouched Animals. London: Hippolyte Baillière. 553 pp + 20 pls.

Waters, B. T. (1969). Osteology of Diprotodon. University of California.

Webb, Steve. (2008). Megafauna demography and late Quaternary climatic change in Australia: A predisposition to extinction. Boreas 37: 329-345.

Webb, Steve. (2009). Late Quaternary distribution and biogeography of the southern Lake Eyre basin (SLEB) megafauna, South Australia. Boreas 38: 25-38.

Wellington, Susan and Milne, Nick. (1999). The functional morphology of the marsupial hind limb in the Diprotodontidae and some extant species. Abstracts from the 6th CAVEPS, Perth, 7-11 July, 1997. In: Baynes, Alexander and Long, John A. (eds.). Papers in vertebrate palaeontology. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 57: 422.

Wells, R. T., R. Grün, J. Sullivan, M. S. Forbes, S. N. Dalgairns, E. A. Bestland, E. J. Rhodes, K. E.Walshe, N. A. Spooner, and S. Eggins. (2006). Late Pleistocene megafauna site at Black Creek Swamp, Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Alcheringa Special Issue 1: 367-387.

Wells, R. T., and R. H. Tedford. (1995). Sthenurus (Macropodidae: Marsupialia) from the Pleistocene of Lake Callabonna, South Australia. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 225: 1-111.

White, J. Peter and Flannery, Tim. (1995). Late Pleistocene fauna at Spring Creek, Victoria: A re-evaluation. Australian Archaeology 40: 13-17. [link to pdf copy at bottom of the page]

Williams, D. L. G. (1982). Late Pleistocene Vertebrates and Palaeo-environments of the Flinders and Mount Lofty Ranges. Unpublished Ph.D thesis, Flinders University, Adelaide.

Willis, P. M. A. and Molnar, Ralph E. (1997). Identification of large reptilian teeth from Plio–Pleistocene deposits of Australia. Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales 130(3-4): 79-92.

Woodward, Arthur Smith. (1907). I.—On a Reconstructed Skeleton of Diprotodon in the British Museum (Natural History). Geological Magazine - GEOL MAG 4(8): [pagination?].

Wroe, Stephen; Crowther, Mathew; Dortch, Joe, and Chong, John. (2004). The size of the largest marsupial and why it matters. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 271: S34-S36.

Zietz, A. H. C. (1890a). Diprotodon remains. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 13: 236.

Zietz, A. H. C. (1890b). (Abstract of Proceedings). Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 13: 245. [relevant citation?]

https://museum.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/VOL.1%20PART%201%201910%20P509.941%20REC.pdf

*This quote is taken from: Bednarik, Robert G. (2013). Myths About Rock Art. Journal of Literature and Art Studies 3(8): 482-500.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-24/teeth-of--rhinoceros-sized-wombat-found-at-lancefield-swamp/8053196

https://twilightbeasts.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/squishy-bear-face/

https://twilightbeasts.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/an-adorable-goofy-looking-giant/

https://www.australianmuseum.net.au/blogpost/museullaneous/meet-darren-the-diprotodon

https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/84659#page/253/mode/1up

https://extinctanimals.proboards.com/thread/16034/diprotodon-optatum

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-28/giant-wombat-monaro-fossil-museum/11258792

 

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