Phascolonus gigas (Owen, 1858)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Phascolomys gigas Owen, 1858 (original combination); Sceparnodon stephensii Ramsay, 1880; Phascolomys magnus Murie, 1866; Sceparnodon ramsayi Owen, 1884


Originally described as Phascolomys gigas Owen, 1858 it was subsequently transferred to the genus Phascolonus (Owen, 1872a,b; Lydekker, 1894).


Conservation Status


Last record: Late Pleistocene



New South Wales (Wellington Caves) & South Australia (Lake Callabonna), Australia

So far most reported remains of P. gigas have come from Lake Callabonna, South Australia (Stirling, 1913; Tedford, 2002; Wells & Tedford, 1995). Exceptions include early material from the Wellington Caves (Dawson, 1985) and from the Pliocene of the Chinchilla Local Fauna in south-eastern Queensland (Louys, 2015).


Anatomy & Morphology

It weighed an estimated 200kg (Johnson & Prideaux, 2004:557; Johnson, 2006:20).


Biology & Ecology

It ate grass (Johnson, 2006:20).



USNM 214696 (Tedford, 2002:39)

USNM 215139 (Tedford, 2002:39)

MF728/9 (Dawson, 1985:65)






Original scientific description:

Owen, Richard. (1858). Odontology. In: The Encyclopedia Britannica, or Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and General Literature. Eighth edition. 16: 447, 450, figure 80.


Other references:

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

Armand, L., Ride, W. D. L. and Taylor, G. (2000). The stratigraphy and palaeontology of Teapot Creek, MacLaughlin River, NSW. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 122: 101-121.

Bartholomai, Alan. (1977). The fossil vertebrate fauna from Pleistocene deposits at Cement Mills, Gore, Southeastern Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 18(1): 41-51.

Dawson, L. (1981). The Status of the Taxa of Extinct Giant Wombats (Vombatidae:Marsupialia) and a Consideration of Vombatid Phylogeny. Australian Mammalogy 4: 65-79.

Dawson, L. (1983). Largest of the wombats Phascolonus gigas, pp. 64–65. In: Quirk, S. and Archer, M. (eds.). Prehistoric animals of Australia. Sydney: Australian Museum.

Dawson, Lyndall. (1985). Marsupial fossils from Wellington Caves, New South Wales; the historic and scientific significance of the collections in the Australia Museum, Sydney. Records of the Australian Museum 37(2): 55-69.

Dodson, John et al. (1993). Humans and megafauna in a late Pleistocene environment from Cuddie Springs, north western New South Wales. Archaeology in Oceania 28(2): 94-99.

Flannery, Timothy F. (1984). Re-examination of the Quabun Local Fauna, A Late Cenozoic Vertebrate Fauna from Western Australia. Rec. West. Aust. Mus. 11(2): 119-128.

Glauert, Ludwig. (1912). Fossil marsupial remains from Balladonia in the Eucla Division. The Balladonia "Soak". Records of the Western Australian Museum 1(2): 47-65.

Glauert, L. G. (1926 "1925"). A list of Western Australian fossils. Supplement no.1. West. Aust. Geol. Surv. Bull. 88: 36-71.

Hocknull, Scott A. et al. (2020). Extinction of eastern Sahul megafauna coincides with sustained environmental deterioration. Nature Communications 11: 2250.

Johnson, Chris N. (2006). Australia's Mammal Extinctions: A 50 000 Year History. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. x + 278 pp. [p. 20, pl. 6, p. 31]

Johnson, Chris N. and Prideaux, Gavin J. (2004). Extinctions of herbivorous mammals in the late Pleistocene of Australia in relation to their feeding ecology: no evidence for environmental change as cause of extinction. Australian Ecology 29: 553-557.

Long, John et al. (2002). Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea, One Hundred Million Years of Evolution. Sydney: University of NSW Press.

Louys, Julien. (2015). Wombats (Vombatidae: Marsupialia) from the Pliocene Chinchilla Sand, southeast Queensland, Australia. Alcheringa 39 (3): 394-406. [Abstract]

Lydekker, Richard. (1894). A Hand-Book to the Marsupialia and Monotremata. pp. 1-302.

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.

Marcus, L. F. (1976). The Bingara Fauna: a Pleistocene vertebrate fauna from Murchison County, New South Wales, Australia. University of California Publications in Geological Sciences 114: 1-145.

McNamara, Ken and Murray, Peter. (2010). Prehistoric Mammals of Western Australia. Welshpool, WA: Western Australian Museum. 107 pp.

Molnar, R. E., and C. Kurz. (1997). The distribution of Pleistocene vertebrates on the eastern Darling Downs, based on the Queensland Museum collections. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 117: 107-134.

MURIE, J. (1866). On the identity of the hairy-nosed wombat (Phascolomys lasiorhinus, Gould) with the broad-fronted wombat (P. latifrons, Owen), with further observations on the several species of this genus. Proc. zool. Soc. Lond. 1865 : 838-54, pi. 47.

Murray, P. F. (1998). Palaeontology and Paleobiology of Wombats, pp. 1-33. In: Wells, Roderick T. and Pridmore, P. A. (eds.). Wombats. Chipping Norton, New South Wales: Surrey Beatty and Sons in association with the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia.

Owen, Richard. (1872a). On the Fossil Mammals of Australia, Part VII: Genus Phascolomys:Species Exceeding the Existing Ones in Size. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 162: 241-258, plates 32-40.

Owen, Richard. (1872b). On the fossil mammals of Australia. Pr. IV. Genus Phascolomys, Geoffr. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 172: 173-96. [incorrect citation?]

Prideaux, G.J., J. A. Long, L. K. Ayliffe, J. C. Hellstrom, B. Pillans, W. E. Boles, M. N. Hutchinson, R. G. Roberts, M. L. Cupper, L. J. Arnold, P. D. Devine, and N. M. Warburton. (2007). An arid-adapted middle Pleistocene vertebrate fauna from south-central Australia, Nature 445: 422-425.

Ramsay, E. P.1880. [Untitled.] The Sydney Morning Herald, 13286, 30 October 1880, page 5, column 4. [citation taken directly from (Tedford, 2002:47)]

Ride, W. D. L. (1965). On Sceparnodon ramsayi Owen, 1884: the selection of a lectotype, the clarification of its type locality, and on its identity with Phascolonus gigas (Owen, 1859). Records of the South Australian Museum 15: 419-425.

Roberts, Richard G, Flannery, Timothy F., Ayliffe, Linda, Yoshida, Hiroyuki, Olley, Jon M., Prideaux, Gavin J., Laslett, Geoff M., Baynes, Alexander, Smith, M. A., Jones, Rhys I. and Smith, Barton L. (2001). New ages for the last Australian megafauna: Continent-wide extinction about 46,000 years ago. Science 292(5523): 1888-1892.

Smith F.A., Lyons S.K., Ernest S.K.M., Jones K.E., Kaufman D.M., Dayan T., Marquet P.A., Brown J.H., Haskell J.P. 2003 Body mass of late Quaternary mammals. Ecology 84(12), 3403-3403.

Stephenson, N. G. (1963). Growth gradients among fossil monotremes and marsupials. Palaeontology 6(4): 615-624.

Stephenson, N. G. (1964). On fossil giant wombats and the identity of Sceparnodon ramsayi. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 142: 537-546. [Abstract]

Stirling, Edward Charles. (1913). Fossil remains of Lake Callabonna. Part IV. 1. Description of some further remains of Genyornis newtoni, Stirling and Zietz. 2. On the identity of Phascolomys (Phascolonus) gigas, Owen, and Sceparnodon ramsayi, Owen, with a description of some of its remains. Memoirs of the Royal Society of South Australia 1: 111-178, pis. XXXV-LVII.

Stirling, Edward Charles and Zietz, Amandus Heinrich Christian. (1899). Preliminary notes on Phascolonus gigas, Owen [Phascolomys (Phascolonus) gigas, Owen] and its identity with Sceparnodon ramsayi Owen. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 23: 123-135.

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]

Tedford, Richard H. (2002). The Basicranium of the Giant Wombat. Phascolonus gigas Owen (Vombatidae: Marsupialia) and Its Significance in Phylogeny. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 93: 39-47.

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.

Wells, Roderick T. and Tedford, Richard H. (1995). Sthenurus (Macropodidae: Marsupialia) from the Pleistocene of Lake Callabonna, South Australia. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 225: 1-112. [two partial skeletons of P. gigas were excavated from Lake Callabonna in 1970]


<< Back to the Diprotodontia database