1 OCTOBER 2008 Australia MEGAFAUNA

New stamp issue from the World

1 OCTOBER 2008 Australia MEGAFAUNA

Postby kennywkt » 26 Sep 2008 01:52

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55c ..............Diprotodon

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55c ..............Genyornis

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$1.10...........Megalania

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$1.10...........Procoptodon goliah

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55c ..............Thylacine

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55c ..............Thylacoleo

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MegaFauna minisheet

TECHNICAL DETAILS
Issue date ...............................1 October 2008
FDI withdrawal date ...............29 October 2008
Denominations .......................4 x 55c, 2 x $1.10
Design & illustration ..............Peter Trusler
Product design ........................Adam Crapp, Australia Post Design Studio
Printer (gummed & s/a) ..........Energi Print
Paper (gummed) .....................Tullis Russell
(s/adhesive) ...................B100 s/a (booklets), B90 s/a (roll)
Printing process ......................Lithography
Stamp sizes ............................26mm x 37.5mm, 52mm x 37.5mm
Miniature sheet size ..............160mm x 90mm
Perforations ............................14.6 x 13.86
Sheet layout ..........................50 (55c) & 24 ($1.10)
Special feature .......................Design in gutter (55c)
National postmark ..................Monash University, Vic 3800

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This issue focuses on Australia’s megafauna – an extraordinary range of giant
creatures that roamed the Australian continent many thousands and even
millions of years ago and became extinct between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago
(with the exception of the Tasmanian Tiger). Many of these animals, including
the marsupial lion and the large kangaroo, briefl y co-existed with humans – a
fact, some scientists hypothesise, that may have contributed to their extinction.
Others hypothesise that climate change may have caused their extinction,
although this argument does not account for the fact that megafaunal species
survived two million years of climatic oscillations, including a number of arid
glacial periods, before their sudden extinction.

Genyornis
Although resembling the emu and the cassowary, the Genyornis is not related
to them – instead, it appears related to ducks, geese and swans. The carbon
isotopes in the bones of Genyornis suggest that it ate perennials, shrubs
and herbaceous plants. Emu and Genyornis egg-shells are commonly found
together in sediments deposited up to 50,000 years ago, but younger dunes
and sediments only contain emu egg-shells. The most complete remains
found thus far have come from the Lake Callabonna salt pan in northern South
Australia, where an expedition from the South Australian Museum recovered
complete skeletons in the late 1890s.

Diprotodon
Australia’s largest marsupial looks just like a giant wombat and was the fi rst
fossil mammal from Australia to be given a scientifi c name – in 1838 by Sir
Richard Owen, a renowned British anatomist who described many of this
continent’s fossil animals. The name means “two forward teeth”, referring to the
two prominently projecting incisors in the lower jaw that point straight ahead. A
reward was posted for the fi nding of a complete foot of this enigmatic pouched
beast and it was not until 1892, at Lake Callabonna, that articulated skeletons,
including complete feet and even trackways, were excavated. Diprotodon
seemed to thrive on the grasslands and may have lived in small herds, but as
aridity increased and water decreased they could not cope.

Procoptodon goliah
Procoptodon goliah was probably the largest of all kangaroos – it stood
about 2.5 metres tall and weighed upwards of 200 kilograms. Experts see
Procoptodon as a grazer on resistant forage rather than a browser on soft
leaves. It had very long arms bearing two unusually long fi ngers on each hand,
which some scientists think may have been for reaching high in vegetation
such as blackoaks and sheoaks. Others suggest long arms more easily assisted
locomotion on all fours in the grasslands. Its feet bore only a single toe, unlike
today’s kangaroos, which possess smaller side toes.

Megalania
Megalania was arguably the “top dog” , the largest predator of the megafauna
in Australia. It probably had similar predatory habits to the much smaller
Komodo Dragon – the largest living varanid lizard and known to have eaten
people. The dragons are often outright scavengers, but can be effi cient
ambush predators, lying in wait along game trails for deer, pigs and even
buffalo. Megalania’s teeth are widely spaced and serrated at the rear, giving it
a very formidable bite in contrast to unserrated teeth in other Varanus species.

Thylacoleo
The marsupial, Thylacoleo carnifex, was fi rst described by Sir Richard Owen
in 1859 as the “fellest and most destructive of predatory beasts”. Few extinct
animals from Australia have aroused so much curiosity. Some say it was an
effi cient carnivore, others an omnivore and still others, a fruit or egg eater!
Thylacoleo harked from a possum ancestry and adaptations in its forelimb could
have been useful in manipulating prey. The Thylacoleo had shearing-like teeth
and front incisors, which could have been used as “stabbing devices”.

Thylacine
The Thylacine has a long history in Australia, dating back to at least the
Miocene. Europeans fi rst knew it as a living marsupial restricted to Tasmania,
yet Thylacines had survived on mainland Australia until at least 3,300 years ago.
The introduction of the dingo by humans pushed Thylacines to extinction on the
mainland. Actively hunted in Tasmania in the 1800s as sheep farming spread,
the fi nal living individual died in the Hobart Zoo in 1933. Although neither a
“wolf” nor “tiger”, it was given its misleading name because it was dog-like and
possessed stripes.

Noted Australian artist Peter Trusler has a long and close working relationship
with Professor Pat Vickers-Rich, the consulting palaeontologist on this stamp
issue. In 1993 a similar collaboration occurred when Peter illustrated the stamp
issue Australia’s Dinosaur Era and again in 2005 with Creatures of the Slime, the
first living creatures.

Adapted from Stamp Bulletin Australia 294
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