The late Miocene Epoch (10.4-5 million years ago)

The late Miocene was a time of global drying and cooling. As ice rapidly accumulated at the poles, sea-levels fell, rainfall decreased and rainforests retreated. Many plant and animal groups died out and other forms, better adapted to a drying world, took their place.

Australia's late Miocene facts


  • Australia was isolated from other landmasses but its northern edge had collided with groups of islands in South East Asia.


  • From the middle Miocene, as polar ice sheets rapidly began to grow in Antarctica, Australia became progressively drier.


  • In the late Miocene, sea-levels dropped. In southern Australia, the Nullarbor Plain - once the limestone bottom of an ancient sea - was exposed.


  • Rainforests retreated to the wetter coastal areas of Australia. Open forests and woodlands were spreading in the drier inland areas.


  • Great herds of large wombat-like marsupials roamed Australia - some had even developed trunks.
  • A new group of kangaroos that hopped began to dominate over their slower four-footed walking relatives.
  • Gigantic thunder birds ruled the Australian roost.
  • The fiercest predators included powerful flesh-eating marsupials called thylacines and lioness-sized marsupial lions.

What was happening in the rest of the world

  • Grasslands were spreading in Africa, Asia and North America.
  • Ancestral forms of apes lived in Africa, Europe and Asia.
  • Like Australia, South America had many marsupial groups, including the ancestors of sabre-toothed marsupials.

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Tags Lost Kingdoms, snapshots through time, late Miocene,