A Kangaroo Called Goliath

As I was waiting for my Vietnamese takeaway at lunchtime, I picked up a copy of the October 2010 National Geographic. Inside the magazine was an article on Australia’s extinct megafauna: Giant kangaroos, rhino-size browsers, enormous flightless birds. And what is the scientific name given to the seven-foot-high kangaroo from the Pleistocene? No, not Skippy, but Goliath (Procoptodon goliah to be precise):

Move over Skippy: It's Procoptodon goliah

Move over Skippy: It's Procoptodon goliah

And look at this:

Procoptodon goliah is most closely related to other species of Procoptodon (Procoptodon rapha and Procoptodon pusio).

“Rapha” is a term occasionally used in the narrative books of the Bible to describe a “Giant”. It’s used as the description of the Giants of Gath of the Philistines, who were killed by David and his merry men. By contrast, “pusio”, the smallest of the three in the genus, means “little boy”. Procoptodon was first described by paleontologist, Professor Sir Richard Owen, back in the mid-nineteenth century. The paleontologist was, with Bishop Wilberforce (son of William Wilberforce), a notable opponent of the evolutionists Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley.

So where did Goliath the Kangaroo and the other megafauna go? Probably into the tummies of the aborigines who arrived in Australia about 50,000-40,000 years ago, and immediately wreaked havoc against rival fauna and even the flora – as did the Maori in New Zealand only 700 years ago.

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