It wouldn’t be an unusual sight for a present-day safari explorer to see herds of animals going on an annual migration. But taken back about 300,000 years, and the rhino-like creatures seen might have actually been giant wombats, the ancient ancestors of the smaller forms of today.
With the new analysis of a fossil tooth from a creature called a Diprotodon, only one known scenario would still hold for their annual migration habits.
A vertebrae paleontologist from Durham University, Anthony Stuart, says that for, “the first time, someone has demonstrated that Diprotodon migrated seasonally”.
Wombats Had Gaint Ancestors, Among the Biggest Creatures Alive at the Time
Over the last ice age, many parts of the world had exotic, large creatures, but the one of the greatest among them was the Diprotodon. This is estimated to have weighed in at almost 3000 kilograms and to have been able to reach a height of 1.8 meters.
The name of the giant ancestors of the modern-day wombats, “Diprotodon”, roughly translated from the Greek, means “two forward teeth”. This implies that the creature had a feature similar to rabbits, but one coupled with the continuous growth like a beaver.
The Diprotodon left traces which dissolved in the water it drank in addition to oxygen, carbon, and other elements from its food. A team took samples from the massive Diprotodon tooth, which, at its full length can reach about 30 centimeters. The scientists used radioactive dating in figuring out that the species lived around 300,000 years ago.
The natural variation in the isotope test ratios implies that the Diprotodon migrated every year, regularly moving around for shifts of rainfall and therefore vegetation.
Palaeoecologist Stephen Wroe of the University of New England said that marsupials from today, like red kangaroos, do move around to find food. However, these shifts are not regular but random.
Wroe says that it’s, “what makes this team’s results so interesting, and it suggests that the climate in the region at the time was more predictable than it is now”.
A study paper with the results was released in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Image Source: Wikimedia