An arid-adapted middle Pleistocene vertebrate fauna from south-central Australia
How well the ecology, zoogeography and evolution of modern biotas is understood depends substantially on knowledge of the Pleistocene1, 2. Australia has one of the most distinctive, but least understood, Pleistocene faunas. Records from the western half of the continent are especially rare3. Here we report on a diverse and exceptionally well preserved middle Pleistocene vertebrate assemblage from caves beneath the arid, treeless Nullarbor plain of south-central Australia. Many taxa are represented by whole skeletons, which together serve as a template for identifying fragmentary, hitherto indeterminate, remains collected previously from Pleistocene sites across southern Australia. A remarkable eight of the 23 Nullarbor kangaroos are new, including two tree-kangaroos. The diverse herbivore assemblage implies substantially greater floristic diversity than that of the modern shrub steppe, but all other faunal and stable-isotope data indicate that the climate was very similar to today. Because the 21 Nullarbor species that did not survive the Pleistocene were well adapted to dry conditions, climate change (specifically, increased aridity) is unlikely to have been significant in their extinction.