Journal article

A diverse Pleistocene marsupial trackway assemblage from the Victorian Volcanic Plains, Australia

Stephen P Carey, Aaron B Camens, Matthew L Cupper, Rainer Gruen, John C Hellstrom, Stafford W McKnight, Iain Mclennan, David A Pickering, Peter Trusler, Maxime Aubert



A diverse assemblage of late Pleistocene marsupial trackways on a lake bed in south-western Victoria provides the first information relating to the gaits and morphology of several megafaunal species, and represents the most speciose and best preserved megafaunal footprint site in Australia. The 60-110 ka volcaniclastic lacustrine sedimentary rocks preserve trackways of the diprotodontid Diprotodon optatum, a macropodid (probably Protemnodon sp.) and a large vombatid (perhaps Ramsayia magna or '. Phascolomys' medius) and possible prints of the marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex. The footprints were imprinted within a short time period, demonstrating the association of the taxa present, rathe..

View full abstract


Awarded by ARC

Funding Acknowledgements

We thank an anonymous farming family of the Victorian Volcanic Plains who have protected the trackways for decades; Parks Victoria staff, especially John Clarke, Frank Gleeson, Dave Jenson and Rob Wallis; Peter Swinkels and his crew of preparators from Museum Victoria who moulded major sections of the trackways; students, staff and friends of the University of Ballarat and DAP's crew of volunteers who helped lay out the grid, measure the tracks and excavate the skeletal fossils; and Matt Gibson of the University of Ballarat who prepared the map of the locality. We appreciate discussions with Steven Bourne (Naracoorte Caves World Heritage Site), Peter Dahlhaus (University of Ballarat), Bernie Joyce (University of Melbourne), John Long (formerly Museum Victoria), Tony Martin (Emory University), Wayne Stephenson (University of Melbourne), Barbara Triggs, Fons VandenBerg (Geoscience Victoria), John Webb (La Trobe University) and Rod Wells (Flinders University). The editor, Colin Murray-Wallace, and the journal reviewers, including Gavin Prideaux (Flinders University), helped considerably to improve the manuscript. Aspects of this study were funded by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority and Heritage Australia, and through ARC DP0664144. John Long, then of Museum Victoria, provided funding for the moulding of the trackways, with a cast of part of the diprotodontid trackway being incorporated into the new permanent exhibition at Museum Victoria, 600 Million Years Victoria Evolves. Kim Dowling and Stephanie Davison secured finance for the University of Ballarat's set of casts; and Alan Kealy documented part of the work with still and motion cameras. RG is grateful to the Institut des Sciences humaines et sociales du CNRS, Bordeaux, and the Laboratoire d'Anthropologie des populations du Pass. Universite de Bordeaux I, for their kind hospitality in the writing-up stage of this manuscript. We acknowledge Amy Toensing whose photograph of the diprotodontid trackway in National Geographic (October, 2010) shows how art can enhance science. SPC dedicates this paper to the memory of Jack Douglas, geologist and palaeobotanist, on the day of whose funeral he first saw the trackways.