Research website of Dr Gilbert Price

New species of Ice Age koala

A UQ Researcher has discovered fossils of an ancient koala that could provide insights into helping vulnerable creatures impacted by climate change.

The fossils, known as the Invincible Koala, where found at Mt Etna north of Rockhampton during systematic cave excavations in 2007.

Dr Gilbert Price said the discovery of the Invincible Koala provided a looking glass into the impact of climate change on rainforest animals, as well as koala diversity, from 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago.

“The new fossils show that the Invincible Koalas didn’t become extinct from rainforests 15 million years ago, as previously thought, but rather suffered extinction more recently,” Dr Price said.

“Our other data from Mt Etna shows there was a massive extinction of rainforests around 205,000—280,000 years ago and most rainforest species suffered extinction, including the Invincible Koala.”

Dr Price said the finding highlights the vulnerability of rainforest creatures to climate change and habitat disturbance and the need to protect this important ecosystem.

The modern koala and the Invincible Koala are separated by more than 24 million years of evolutionary history, and despite vastly different habitats and teeth to match; both species were similar in size.

“The Invincible Koala was a tough little critter, but even it couldn’t cling on in the face of the major climate change event 300,000 years ago,” he said.

“Most of the rainforest species suffered extinction and desert species such as bilbies became more prevalent.”

The new fossil will be lodged at the Queensland Museum and made available to other researchers.

Dr Price’s research was published in a British Journal, the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, which has global distribution.

Adapted from a media release by Belinda Berry / Lynelle Ross, The University of Queensland

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Gilbert Price

Vertebrate palaeontologist at The University of Queensland
Gilbert has diverse research interests that include the study of Ice Age megafauna extinctions, climate and human impacts on coral reefs, and development of new fossil dating methods.

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  1. Dear Dr G.
    We are having a Bundy party on the Isle of Dogs in London and we started having a discussion about the existence of the Queensland Tiger last seen in 1910 around Atherton Tablelands. Reference The wild Animals of Australasia author A S Soulfe first published 1926. Does it exist??
    Looking forward to your reply.

    • Hey Selfy,
      There are a whole bunch of claims for ‘crypto’ faunas out there- the Queensland Tiger, big cats in southeastern Australia, giant lizards etc. From the scientific perspective, I would think that it would be unlikely that a Queensland Tiger would exist today in nature- they would surely be too conspicuous to not have been noticed for over a hundered years. I think that a lot of claims for things like the Queensland Tiger might be more of a case of mistaken identity.

      What you might not know though, the Tasmanian Tiger used to occur all over continental Australia, as well as New Guinea! Of course, the Tasmanian Tiger is not a real tiger at all- it is actually a type of marsupial. The fossil record shows that the Tassie Tiger went extinct on the mainland and NG around 3.5-4 thousand years ago, roughly coinciding with the arrival of the dingo. In the absence of the dingo, the Tassie Tiger thrived in Tasmania, at least until the time that Europeans turned up. Europeans did some pretty nasty things to the Tassie Tiger- they hunted it, they introduced diseases, and they caused detrimental habitat changes. Utlimately, they drove its extinction. The passing of the last Tassie Tiger in a Hobart zoo in 1936 marked the extinction not only of a species, but also of an entire family of Australian marsupial. What a tragedy!

      I’ve actually got a chapter in an upcoming book that looks a bit more closely at the Tassie Tiger story- it should be published mid-2012. If you’re keen, you can already buy it on Amazon!

      Take care Selfy, and have a drink for me!