Wombats Lived in Trees

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Wombats lived in trees claim scientists, as reported in ABC News in Science 22 November 2012 and PLoS ONE 21 November 2012, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048213. Australian scientists have found fossils of an extinct marsupial animal they have named Nimbadon lavarackorum in a middle Miocene cave deposit in Riversleigh, in north western Queensland, Australia. It was a wombat-like creature and belonged to a group of animals named Diprotodonts. Living wombats live in burrows in the ground, but Karen Black of the University of New South Wales and her colleagues who studied the bones of Nimbadon claim the fossil creature lived in trees, like koalas. Black commented: “It's quite exciting really. It was always believed diprotodontids roamed in mobs on the ground but looking at the skeleton of Nimbadon, we've actually found it was climbing trees and most probably lived in trees”. The animals had long forelimbs that were “strikingly similar to koalas” with long fingers and toes, semi-opposable thumbs and toes with long claws, and very mobile shoulder, elbow and wrist joints. It also had a bulbous snout, indicating it had a good sense of smell and the researchers suggest is ate fruit as well as leaves.

The researchers also suggest it died out as Australia dried out, and the lush rainforests that once covered Australia receded due to climate change. Because Nimbadon’s limb proportions are similar to that of today's sloths and orang-utans the researchers suggest it spent a lot of time hanging from trees. According to Karen Black “The animal has the shortest hindlegs of any known marsupial. This also indicates that this guy wasn't only hugging trees like koalas but was also hanging from trees”. The researchers estimate it would have weighed around 70kg (154 lb) and Karen Black admitted “It was quite unusual to find such a big animal up in the tree tops”. She also commented that would be “wonderful” to bump into Nimbadon while out walking in the forest.

ABC

Editorial Comment: Anyone driving on Australian roads who has run into one of today’s ground dwelling wombats has discovered it is like bumping into a block of concrete, and the car usually comes off second best. Perhaps it would not be so “wonderful” to bump into one of its relatives hanging from trees in a forest.

But let’s distinguish fossil fact from fantasy here. This animal was not found climbing a tree. It was found dead and buried in a cave deposit. However, its bones do indicate this animal would have been capable of climbing trees.

The researchers are correct in suggesting climate change would have caused the recession of forests, which in turn contributed to the extinction of such large animals. However such climate change could not have been caused by human industry, but was part of the general drying of Australia that has occurred since Noah’s flood. Humans probably did contribute to the demise of many large animals and forests, but in more direct ways – hunting the animals and burning down the forest. One result has been the loss of many types of creatures and a general diminishing in size of surviving animals. This is the opposite of evolution, but fits well with Biblical history of the world, man as vegetarian, then as farmer, then as hunter, and the environment as first good, then not so good, then devastated by the flood and degenerating towards the present (see Genesis 1-12). (Ref: megafauna, marsupials, ecology)

Evidence News 5 December 2012

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