Scientists have solved a timeless question that has divided Andrew and myself, more than once leading us to come to blows…And as it turns out, only one species of giant wombat roamed the planet between 2 million and 10,000 years ago, despite evidence that they varied significantly in size. Boo hoo, Andrew. You lose again!
Majestic, weren’t they?
A study by Gilbert Price in the last issue of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society , focused on tooth specimens of the giant wombats (the largest ever marsupials to reign on Earth). After comparing over…
…a thousand teeth, Price realized that they all displayed similar markings and thus appear to come from the same species.
Scientists previously studying giant prehistoric wombats had assumed that there existed anywhere from two even up to eighteen or more different species of wombat. This assumption was made because of the varying sizes of the adult fossils found. Specimens ranged from just a few feet long to up to nine feet long and almost six feet tall!
A large wombat in Australia. In this picture, it appears to be holding a stuffed animal.
Price and his team, however, are attributing the size range to sexual dimorphism (differences in size based on sex). They are speculating that the smaller prehistoric wombats were most likely female and the larger, male.
Says Price in his study, “As a single morphospecies, D. optatum had a near-continental geographical distribution, similar to that of extant megaherbivores, possibly indicating its niche as a habitat generalist.” Or in layman’s terms, suck it Andrew.