The Recently Extinct Plants and Animals Database

Phascolarctos stirtoni Bartholomai, 1968

Giant koala, Stirton's koala



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

The taxon is eponymous, having been named in honour of American palaeontologist Ruben Arther "R. A." Stirton, who came to Australia under the auspices of a Fullbright scholarship in 1953 for 9 months.


Conservation Status

Last record: Late Pleistocene



Queensland, South Australia & Victoria, Australia


Biology & Ecology




Holotype: QMF5707

Other material:

MVP215957 (Price, 2008:2518)
QMF52290 (Price, 2008:2518)
QM F52289 (Price, 2008:2518; Price et al. 2009a)






Original scientific description:

Bartholomai, Alan. (1968). A new fossil koala from Queensland and a reassessment of the taxonomic position of the problematical species Koalemus ingens De Vis. [i]Mem. Qld. Mus.[/i] [b]15(2)[/b]: 65-72.


Other references:


Archer, Michael. (1984). On the importance of being a koala, pp. 809-815. In: Archer, M. and Clayton, G. (eds.). Vertebrate Zoogeography and Evolution in Australia. Carlisle, Western Australia: Hesperian Press.

Archer, Michael and Hand, Suzanne J. (1987). Evolutionary considerations, pp. 79-106. In: Cronin, L. (ed.). Koala: Australia’s Endearing Marsupial. Sydney: Reed Books.

Black, K.H., Gilbert J. Price, Archer, M., Hand, S.J. (2014). Bearing up well? Understanding the past, present and future of Australia’s koalas. Gondwana Research 25: 1186-1201.

Mahoney, J. A. and Ride, W. D. L. (1975). Index to the genera and species of fossil Mammalia described from Australia and New Guinea between 1838 and 1968. Western Australian Museum Special Publication 6: 1-250.

Moriarty, K.C., McCulloch, M.T., Wells, R.T., McDowell, M.C., 2000. Mid-Pleistocene cave fills, megafaunal remains and climate change at Naracoorte, South Australia: towards a predictive model using U–Th dating of speleothems. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 159: 113-143.

Murray, P. F. (1984). Extinctions downunder: A bestiary of extinct Australian monotremes and marsupials, pp. 600-628. In: Martin, P. S. and Klein, R. G. (eds.). Quaternary Extinctions: A Prehistoric Revolution. Tuscon, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press.

Murray, P. F. (1991). The Pleistocene megafauna of Australia, pp. 1071-1164. In: Vickers-Rich, P., Monaghan, J. M., Baird, R. F., and Rich, T. H. Vertebrate Palaeontology of Australiasia. Pioneer Design Studio. [[i]P. cinereus[/i] or [i]P. stirtoni[/i], material lacks diagnostic features]

Piper, Katarzyna J. (2005). An early Pleistocene record of a giant koala (Phascolarctidae: Marsupialia) from western Victoria. Australian Mammalogy 27: 221-223.

Price, Gilbert J. (2008). Is the modern koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) a derived dwarf of a Pleistocene giant? Implications for testing megafauna extinction hypotheses. Quaternary Science Reviews 27(27-28): 2516-2521. [oldest known record, c. 500ka]

Price, Gilbert J., Louys, Julien, Smith Garry K. and Cramb Jonathan. (2019). Shifting faunal baselines through the Quaternary revealed by cave fossils of eastern Australia. PeerJ 6: e6099.

Price, Gilbert J., Zhao, Jian-Xin, Feng, Yue-Xing and Hocknull, Scott A. (2009a). New records of Plio-Pleistocene koalas from Australia: palaeoecological and taxonomic implications. [i]Records of the Australian Museum[/i] [b]61[/b](1): 39-48.

Price, Gilbert J., Zhao, Jian-Xin, Feng, Yue-Xing and Hocknull, Scott A. (2009b). New U/Th ages for Pleistocene megafauna deposits of southeastern Queensland, Australia. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 34(2): 190-197. [youngest record, c.50ka]

Prideaux, G. J., R. G. Roberts, D. Megirian, K. E. Westaway, J. C. Hellstrom, and J. M. Olley. (2007). Mammalian responses to Pleistocene climate change in southeastern Australia. Geology 35: 33-36.

Reed, E. H. and Bourne, S. J. (2000). Pleistocene fossil vertebrate sites of the south east region of South Australia. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 124: 61-90. [material referred to Phascolarctos cf. stirtoni]


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