BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Chinese Vietnamese Burmese Thai Indonesian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Asia-Pacific  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Australia unearths fossilised giants
The skeleton of a giant marsupial lion, thylacoleo carnifex, from a cave in the Nullarbor Plain
The fossils were described as 'the find of the century'
The fossilised remains of prehistoric giant lions and other mammoth creatures have been discovered in caves in Western Australia.

John Long inspects the jaw from the skeleton of a giant marsupial lion, thylacoleo carnifex
The Leo skeleton is now on display at the Perth museum
Operation Leo, carried out in three caves on the Nullabor Plain, unearthed Australia's first complete skeleton of a giant marsupial lion - Leo - as well as the world's biggest kangaroo and a wombat the size of a small car.

Palaeontologist John Long from the Western Australian Museum in Perth described the fossils as "the find of the century".

The animals bones have lain entombed for an estimated 1.5 million years.

Perfect condition

Mr Long and his 14-member team found the fossils during a two-week dig after the site was originally discovered in May.

Australian Museum/Paul Ovenden
The marsupial lion was Australia's largest carnivorous mammal
Alongside Leo lay six partial skeletons of fellow giant lions - characterised by their deadly front teeth and retractable claws - which the scientists believe were used for disembowelling animals.

Mr Long said the bones were found in perfect condition.

"This is a unique situation where the caves must have been sealed off shortly after the animals were trapped and died so we've got these ancient animals in a perfectly undisturbed and complete state," he told the French news agency AFP.

'Tip of the iceberg'

Mr Long said the discovery revealed how modern animals evolved from some of the most specialised creatures on earth.

And he said it has given scientists a unique insight into prehistoric life in the region.

"It tells us what the Pleistocene period was like in Australia from 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"But it's the tip of the iceberg as to what we hope to find in future expeditions."

He said it was still unclear what drove the animals to extinction.

He said one of the theories was that they disappeared with the arrival of humans about 60,000 years ago, while others blamed climate and vegetation changes for their extinction.

See also:

06 Sep 00 | Science/Nature
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes