It's never easy being the (really, really old) new guy, but 'Darren' our new fossilised Diprotodon already feels like part of the family.
The fossilised skull and vertebrae were recently discovered by local landowners in Tambar Springs, in the north west slopes of NSW. The animal, affectionately named Darren, was excavated by a team of researchers from the Australian Museum and the University of NSW.
Measuring up to three metres long and two metres tall at the shoulder, and weighing a hefty 2-3 tonnes, Diprotodon optatum is the largest known marsupial to ever live. This iconic member of Australia’s ‘megafauna’ co-existed with people before becoming extinct about 35,000-40,000 years ago. Its closest living relatives and koalas and wombats.
Darren is a rare find, given his upper and lower jaws are still in place, and his neck vertebrae still attached. Based on the size of the bones, he's is believed to be a young animal.
After recording and preparing the exposed Diprotodon bones, the team dug a deep trench around a large area surrounding the fossils to excavate them as a block. Plaster bandages were applied to the bones and a protective plaster jacket was created for the entire block. It took five people to carry the enormous fossil block to the vehicle. These incredible fossils were prepared at the University of NSW and are now part of the Australian Museum’s palaeontology collection.
A special thanks goes out to the landowners for discovering the fossils and sharing them with us!
You can see Darren, and take a selfie with a life-sized model of Diprotodon optatum at the Australian Museum.