Genus 'Zygomaturus' was a group of herbivorous marsupials that lived in southern Australia and probably died out about 50,000 years ago, or possibly more recently. Like its larger 'Diprotodon' relatives, 'Zygomaturus' was a member of Australia's megafauna of the Pleistocene epoch, 1.8 million years ago (mya) to 11,000 years ago. They had two large incisor teeth similar to those of 'Diprotodon'. The name 'Zygomaturus' refers to the broad zygomatic arches, or cheek bones, found in these animals. 'Zygomaturus' were about 2.5 m long, 1 m tall at the shoulder and weighed 300-500 kg.
These prehistoric animals lived in the wetter coastal forests of southern Australia, and probably used their large incisors to scoop up vegetation such as shrubs. Wombats are their closest living relatives. This 'Z tasmanicus' was discovered in 1912 along with other 'Zygomaturus' skeletons, in Mowbray Swamp, near Smithton, Tasmania. This skeleton is now displayed in Museum Victoria.
'Zygomaturus' died out during a mass extinction of Australia's megafauna, which occurred late in the Pleistocene epoch. These mass extinctions may have been associated with the last ice age, which peaked 18,000 years ago, or may have occurred earlier.
Some of the reasons proposed for the mass extinctions include: hunting by Aboriginal people, since they had arrived on the continent towards the end of this time; habitat change as a result of the use of fire by Aboriginal groups; or climate change in the form of an ice age, which would have led to dry conditions across much of the continent. Some scientists think that probably all three factors combined to cause the massive loss of species evident in the fossil record, while others think the arrival of humans was the single most devastating cause.
This specimen is an example of an 'unaltered' type of fossil. This fossil has undergone little or no change to the structure and composition of the bone. Younger fossils, such as this one from the Pleistocene epoch, are more likely to be found in an unaltered state than the more ancient fossils.
Fossils are the remains, moulds or traces of dead plants or animals preserved mostly in sedimentary rock such as sandstones, siltstones, shales and limestones. Fossils provide clues to invaluable information about the Earth's past, including the evolution of plants and animals, the age and formation of rocks, previous climatic and environmental conditions, and the former positions of the continents.