14 Oct 2012

Ice Age fossil being excavated in NT

9:40 am on 14 October 2012

Excavation has begun in the Northern Territory on the fossil of a marsupial like a big wombat that roamed Australia during the Ice Age.

The dig by a team from Darwin and Alice Springs is taking place in calcified clay on a cattle station more than 300km south-west of Katherine.

The ABC reports the fossil is that of a Diprotodon, which is believed to be the largest marsupial that ever lived, and perhaps the biggest animal that roamed Australia at the same time as man.

The skeleton is lying on its back, with its ribs and pelvis jutting out of the red soil of a large riverbank at Auvergne Station.

Jared Archibald of the NT Museum said its head and tail are missing.

If scientists can obtain a conclusive date for the sediment surrounding the skeleton, palaeontologist Adam Yates said it might reveal clues as to when the animal became extinct in the Territory.

At this stage, Dr Yates can only estimate that the skeleton has been there for between one million and 40,000 years.

The ABC reports the fossil was found about two years ago on Auvergne Station. The skeleton will be housed at the NT museum in Darwin.