Australia 2008 "Australian Megafauna"

<prev back to index next>

Issue Date 01.10.2008
ID Mint / Self-adhesive
Michel: 3102-3107, Bl. 79 / 3108-3111 ;
Scott: 2975-2980, 2980c / 2981-2984 ;
Stanley Gibbons: 3080-3085, MS3086 / 3087-3090 ;
Yvert: 2980-2985, BF109 / 2985A-D ;
Category: pR
Designer Stamp and cover illustration: Peter Trusler.
Scientific consultant: Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich, Chair of Paleontology, Monash University.
Stamp and cover design: Adam Crapp, Australia Post Design Studio.
Stamps in set 6
Value 55c - Genyornis newtoni (Thunder bird)
55c - Diprotodon optatum (Giant Wombat)
55c - Thylacoleo carnifex (Marsupial Lion)
55c - Thylacinus cynocephalus (Tasmanian Tiger)
$1.10 - Procoptodon goliah (Short-faced Giant Kangaroo)
$1.10 - Megalania prisca (Giant Varanid)
Emission/Type commemorative
Issue place Monash University, Victoria 3800
Size (width x height) stamps: 55c - 26mm x 37.5mm, $1.10 - 52mm x 37.5mm
Mini-Sheet: 160mm x 90mm
Layout Mint stamps: 55c - sheet of 50, $1.10 -sheet of 20.
Gutter-pairs stripes x2.
Self-adhesive stamps: booklet of 10, box of 100.
Products FDC x2, Mini-Sheet x1, Gutter Pairs strip of 55c stamps x1, Presentation Pack x1, Maxi Card set of 6, Medallion cover x1, Booklet with panels of 10 55c self-adhesive stamps (5x2) x1, Box of 100 self-adhesive stamps x1 (produced by two companies),
Paper Tullis Russell, Phosphorized
Perforation mint: 14.6 x 13.86, self-adhesive: die-cut 11.50x11.25
Print Technique Lithography
Printed by "Energi Print P/L" (mint and self-adhesive) and "Pemara" (self-adhesive).
Quantity ?
Issuing Authority Australia Post
Megafauna on stamps of Australia 2008

On October 1st, 2008, Australian Post issued the set of 6 stamps "Megafauna". These stamps show 6 prehistoric mammals from Australian continent and were issued in several formats:
  • Two Sheets: all four 55c stamps were printed together - 5 stamps in the row, where the Genyornis stamp was printed twice at the beginning and the end of each row.
    Both stamps with the face value of $1.10 were printed together - 5 stamps in the row - 3 stamps of Megalania + 2 stamps of Procoptodon.
  • Some Sheets were printed with Gutter-pair rows.
    The skeletons of the animals shown on the tabs between stamps of 55c.
    The Sheet with tabs between stamps of $1.10 shows the "traffic light". This Sheet contains only 4 stamps in a row.
  • Mini-Sheet of all 6 stamps
  • All four stamps with the face value of 55c were issued as self-adhesive in a booklet of 10 of and boxes with roles of 100 stamps. The boxes were produced by two different companies: "Energi Print P/L" and "Pemara". The coils from these boxes can be differentiated by distance of between stamps and the company name on the reverse side.

This issue focused on Australians 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, briefly 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.

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

Since the 1980's, Peter Trusler, trained as a biologist/anatomist (B.Sc. from Monash) and wildlife artist has worked with Prof. Vickers-Rich and Dr. Thomas Rich on a number of projects to visualize past environments.
Together they have produced many books (Wildlife of Gondwana (Indiana University Pres), The Fossil Book (Doubleday), The Dinosaurs of Darkness (Allen & Unwin) and the cover of Time Magazine in 1993. Trusler has worked for National Geographic and two of his paintings of Australia's ancient past grace the walls of the NGS Headquarters in Washington, DC.

In the introduction of the Prestige Booklet Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich wrote:

" In order to illustrate the megafauna as accurately as possible, artist Peter Trusler undertakes extensive research before he begins his work. As the source material is often fragmentary, Peter first reads as much as he can on the selected species of what fossilised remains and skeletons may exist; of where and how they were found and of the various hypotheses that exist on how they may have looked like, their size, particular characteristics, and behaviour. He will then search through museum collections and take relevant sketch notes and photos before investigating the actual sites where many of the skeletons and fossils were found.
And lastly Peter discussed anatomical issues with a number of experts from museums and academic institutions. The detailed illustrative process then begins, a process that involves three stages - skeleton reconstruction; muscle reconstruction; and finally the whole animal reconstruction stage.
Great thought and attention goes into every aspect of Peter's work including the posture arid scale of the animals and their likely environment. Refinements continue to be made until Peter is happy that his Illustrations accommodate the basic structure of the animals revealed by the fossil data and all the elements in the wider scene are reconciled with current scientific thinking.
But Peter is not simply recreating scientifically accurate extinct animals he is also an artist and as such creates panoramas of exquisite detail, drama and harmony with strong intrinsic visual rhythms. "

The setting of the Mini-Sheet is an outback creek, which previous to the last glaciation would have been lusher than the arid environment of today. In the unfolding story, a Thylacoleo (Australian's marsupial lion) has scavenged or killed a young Diprotopon (giant wombat). Two other predatory species, the Megalania (giant varanid) and Thylacine, close in on the Thylaceleo. The mother Diprotodon attempts to repel the predators, while the Genyornis (the last of the large flightless birds) and other species, flee the scene. The Procoptdon (giant short-faced kangaroo) looks on from the far creek bank. The setting also includes Major Mitchell Cockatoos and modern Macropos Kangaroos, both species existing in the late Pleistocene period.

Megafauna medallion cover of Australia 2008
Image credit: Geomar

Although resembling the emu and the cassowary, the Genyornis is not related to them - instead, it appears related to ducks, geese and swans and the living South American screamers of the Anhimidae family. The carbon isotopes in the bones of Genyornis suggest that it ate perennials, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
Genyornis on stamp of Australia 2008
Genyornis on stamp of Australia 2008, MiNr.: 3102, Scott: 2975.
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 first bones were reported by Sir Richard Owen, a British anatomist who described many of this continent's fossil animals, from the Wellington Caves in the 1830s, but 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 on stamp of Australia 2008
Diprotodon on stamp of Australia 2008, MiNr.: 3103, Scott: 2976.
Australian's largest marsupial looks just like a giant wombat, but was the size of a car, at 4 metres in length, 1.8 metres tall at the shoulder, nearly 3 tonnes in weight and is a close relative of living wombats and koalas.
Diprotodon was the first fossil mammal from Australia to be given a scientific name - in 1838 by Sir Richard Owen. 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, by Owen, for the finding of a complete foot of this enigmatic pouched beast and it was not until 1892, after Owen died, at Lake Callabonna, that articulated skeletons, including complete feet and even trackways, were excavated.
Diprotodon was Australian's largest marsupial, a quadruped with complex feet that almost seemed too small to support its weight. One big toe opposed all others in a fashion that reflected its arboreal ancestry. 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.
Extended droughts would have made much of inland Australia uninhabitable; hundreds of individuals have been found at the centre of Lake Callabonna in northern South Australia, trapped in the mud as the lakebed dried out. On the Darling Downs in Queensland, one study of Diprotodon habitat has found that areas once covered in woodlands, vine thickets and scrublands gave way to grasslands as the climate became drier.
Fossil cave - Naracoorte on stamp of Australia 1996
Fossil cave - Naracoorte. One of the many sites in Australia where fossils of Diprotodon were found. Diprotodon skull and skeleton of Procoptodon goliah are featured on the top side of the stamp. Australia 1996, "Australian World Heritage Sites", MiNr. 1538, SCott: 1487.
Diprotodon is known from many sites across Australia, including the Darling Downs in southeastern Queensland; Wellington Caves, Tambar Springs and Cuddie Springs in New South Wales; Bacchus Marsh in Victoria; and Lake Callabonna, Naracoorte Caves and Burra in South Australia.

There is some evidence of either predation or scavenging of Diprotodon by the Pleistocene 'marsupial lion', Thylacoleo carnifex: a forelimb bone (ulna) from near Glen Innes, New South Wales was found with deep, blade-like tooth marks matching those of Thylacoleo (whose teeth were also found at the site).

Thylacoleo on stamp of Australia 2008
Thylacoleo on stamp of Australia 2008, MiNr.: 3104, Scott: 2977.
The marsupial, Thylacoleo carnifex, was first 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 reconstruct this strange marsupial as an efficient carnivore, others as an omnivore and still others, such as American palaeontologist E. Drinker Cope in 1884 as a fruit or egg eater!
Thylacoleo harked from a possum ancestry and it retains the anatomy in its hands and feet typical of animals adapted to life in the trees — but adaptations in the forelimb that could also have been useful in manipulating prey.
Its hand is made up of four relatively slender, elongated digits with small claws and a manoeuvrable thumb with a large, hooded claw. Another most unusual feature of Thylacoleo is its skull with cheek teeth dominated by a huge, blade-like third premolar. This has been compared to the shearing carnassial teeth in placental carnivores, such as cats and dogs.
Thylacoleo, with the dimensions of a modern lioness, up to 160 kilograms in weight, and with premolar guillotines so powerful that they doubled as bolt cutters, for crushing bone as well as slicing flesh make these "marsupial lions" not only the largest mammalian predators in Australia of their time, but also one of the most efficient predators in mammal history. Not only did they have a very strong bite, but they were also able to climb trees using their flexible forelimbs and shoulders reducing the possibility that their prey could escape.

Thylacine on stamp of Australia 2008
Thylacine on stamp of Australia 2008, MiNr.: 3105, Scott: 2978.
Thylacine, (Thylacinus cynocephalus), also called the marsupial wolf, Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf, largest carnivorous marsupial of recent times.
The Thylacine has a long history in Australia, dating back to at least the Miocene. Europeans first 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 Thylacine to extinction on the mainland. Actively hunted in Tasmania in the 1800s as sheep farming spread, the final 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.
In 2009 an international team of geneticists announced that they had successfully sequenced the genome of the thylacine. In 2022 Colossal Inc., an American biotechnology company, and the University of Melbourne’s Thylacine Integrated Genomic Restoration Lab announced a partnership to resurrect the species and reintroduce it to Tasmania.

Procoptodon goliah
Procoptodon goliah on stamp of Australia 2008
Procoptodon on stamp of Australia 2008, MiNr.: 3107, Scott: 2980.
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 fingers on each hand, which some scientists think may have been for reaching high in vegetation such as be black oaks and she-oaks. Others suggest long arms more easily assisted locomotion on all fours in the grasslands. Its feet bore only a single toe, unlike modern kangaroos, which possess smaller side toes.
According to the Australian Museum, Procoptodon would have co-existed with Aboriginal people for as long as 30,000 years. In NSW Aboriginal people continue to have stories about a long-armed aggressive kangaroo that fits the description of the species. These animals may have survived in some parts of Australia until around 18,000 years ago.

Megalania on stamp of Australia 2008
Megalania on stamp of Australia 2008, MiNr.: 3106, Scott: 2979.
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 efficient ambush predators, lying in wait along game trails for deer, pigs and even buffalo.
Megalania is not known from complete skeletons and so some of its reconstruction is based on the living varanid lizards. But, there are certainly differences. Its teeth are more widely spaced than in other varanids. They are also more curved, sharply smooth in front, but serrated at the rear, giving Megalania a very formidable bite in contrast to unserrated teeth in other species. Unlike any known varanid, Megalania had a short crest on the top of its skull. In Asia the first fossil records of varanids occur at a time when Australia was separating from Antarctica, but they do not occur in our record until the time Australia began its collision with Southeast Asia.

Note: The biggest part of the text above was written by Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich, Chair of Paleontology, Monash University, who was scientific consultant for these stamps issue. She wrote the text for the "Prestige Booklet" and Stamp Bulletin of Australian Post in 2008.

Products and associated philatelic items

Official FDCs Medallion Cover
Megafauna on FDC of Australia 2008 Megafauna on FDC of Australia 2008 Megafauna medallion cover of Australia 2008
The reverse side is here The reverse side is here
Mini-Sheets (clean and surcharged)
Original Surcharged at Beijing stamp shows in 2008 Surcharged in 2022 for "Impression Collection: Animals of the Deep Past"
Megafauna on Mini-Sheet of Australia 2008 Megafauna on surcharged Mini-Sheet of Australia 2008 Megafauna on gutter pair stamps of Australia 2008
The Mini-Sheet, as well as single stamps, sold by Australian Post in small plastic bags with a piece of thick paper. Surcharged postmarks used black ink.
* Surcharged Mini-sheets from other stamp shows may exist.
Surcharged postmarks on the numbered Mini-Sheet used golden ink. The postmark depicts the footprint of Diprotodon
Gutter Pairs Presentation Pack
Megafauna on gutter pair stamps of Australia 2008 Megafauna on gutter pair stamps of Australia 2008 Megafauna stamps presentation pack  of Australia 2008
Stamps from the Sheets Prestige Booklet
Megafauna on postage stamps of Australia 2008 Megafauna on postage stamps of Australia 2008 Megafauna on FDC of Australia 2008
Special Postmarks: "Stampex 2008" Mini-Sheets from the Prestige Booklet
Procoptodon on commemorative postmark of Australia 2008 Megalania on commemorative postmark of Australia 2008 Mega fauna on Mini-Sheets from the Prestige Booklet of Australia 2008
Example of Circulated Covers and Postcards Maxi Cards
Megafauna stamps  of Australia 2008 on used circulated cover Megafauna stamps  of Australia 2008 on used circulated cover Mega fauna on Maxi Cards of Australia 2008
Self-adhesive stamps
Booklet pane Box stamps Collector Pack
Megafauna on gutter pair stamps of Australia 2008 Megafauna on gutter pair stamps of Australia 2008 Megafauna on gutter pair stamps of Australia 2008
The reverse side is here The reverse sides are here Some coil strips contained message labels between stamps
The self-adhesive coil stamps were printed by two companies: "Energi Print P/L" and "Pemara", which differ in the order and distance of the stamps in the coil and the company name on the reverse side.

Stamp Bulletin of Australian Post, September-October 2008 on Facebook - Welcome to join !

Some videos about Australian Megafauna

Many thanks to Dr. Peter Voice from Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Western Michigan University, for his help to find an information for this article, the draft page review and his very valuable comments.

<prev back to index next>