How Big Was The Diprotodon?
Before humans arrived in Australia, there were many large animals that have now gone extinct. There were giant koalas twice as big as the living kind, giant kangaroos, and more. The biggest of all these was a plant-eating animal the size of a hippopotamus, called the Diprotodon. The Diprotodon was the biggest ever marsupial. It was about 3 metres (10 feet) long, 2 metres (6 feet) high, and perhaps weighed over 2 tons. It would have looked like an enormous wombat.
Why Did It Go Extinct?
Scientists are not sure exactly why Diprotodon went extinct. We know it happened shortly after people arrived, so perhaps this peaceful creature was hunted to death. However, the early Australians also changed the landscape and climate of Australia – the forests slowly became dryer, with less undergrowth suitable for a large, slow-moving plant-eater.
Today, many museums exhibit skeletons of the Diprotodon. Apart from that, the only clue we have to what it looked like is through the imagination of artists.
Scientists are not sure exactly how many different types of Diprotodon there were. Some say there were over 20 types, others argue that there was only one. This one – or all – make up a family of mammals called Diprotodontidae, which in turn all belonged to an order of mammals called Diprotodontia. All these names mean the same thing – “two front teeth”. All the best-known marsupials – kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and so on – belong to the same order as Diprotodon, but they are in different families.
Therefore the Diprotodon is
- The world’s biggest ever Diprotodontidae, and
- The world’s biggest ever Diprotodontia,
The Diprotodon And The Bunyip
Australian folklore tells tales of a fearsome creature called a Bunyip. It was said to live near lakes, and make a terrible booming noise. Interestingly, some members of a certain tribes of native Australians were once shown bones of a Diprotodon, and they identified the bones as “Bunyip bones”. It’s possible, then, that the myth of the bunyip is based on the very real – but now extinct – Diprotodon.