Fascinating furred creatures of Australia's past


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MOST EARTH SCIENTISTS BELIEVE that our planet is about 4500 million (or 4.5 billion) years old. According to the fossil record, living things in the form of amazing blue-green algae first appeared about 700 million years later. Mammals first made an appearance in the fossil record early in the age of dinosaurs (to the embarrassment of evolutionists, who would much prefer that none appeared until much later), being aged at approximately 200 millions years old. When two lower jaw bones looking suspiciously like those of modern mammals were retrieved from 'dinosaur strata', the notion that they came from mammals living at the same time as dinosaurs was dismissed by some experts.

At that time, Australia was connected with New Guinea, New Zealand, Antarctica, Africa, India, South America and Madagascar in one huge supercontinent, Gondwana. Though a few scrappy fossils have been found in Australia of mammals from the age of dinosaurs, the evidence indicates that mammals did not occupy a major slice in the biodiversity pie until the age of dinosaurs had ended. According to the fossil evidence, they became far more common once the Mesozoic era began about 65 million years ago.

During the Miocene, Australia played host to a fascinating array of mammals, mainly from the order Marsupalia — the pouched mammals. Creatures with such jaw-breaking names as Ausktribosphinos, Tingamarra, Wynyardia and Ektopodon, to name just a few, graced our lovely land at different times during the last 65 million years.

One of the best-known of our extinct mammals is Diprotodon. These fascinating creatures may have survived until only 20,000 years ago.

Roughly the size of a cow with the shape of a wombat, Diprotodon had some unusual features, not least of which were its feet, for few other mammals have feet remotely like them. The toes were reduced to stubs, the weight having been borne primarily by the wrist and ankle bones. Their gait was probably rather unusual as a result.

Its uniqueness is most apparent in its skull, which is surprisingly delicate. Much of the skull bone is only a millimeter thick, much thinner than one would expect by comparison with other mammals. Also, the brain case consisted of a box-within-a-box. The brain was in the inner box, which was separated from the outer one by air chambers supported from being crushed by delicate sheets of bone connecting the two. This strange structure, similar to a modern elephant's, has to do with the unusual structure of the jaws and their method of closing.

No doubt remains that these animals once existed but now do not. The only question that remains is, how did they arise? By evolution, or did God create them? And if He did create them, why?

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