This article, file, template, or category has been reviewed.
Click here to see the review.
|Future of The World|
|This is a part of Future of The World: a collaborative project about our planet's future|
|Ecoregions||Greater Outback, Australian Temperate Forest, Australian Shelf Reefs, Australian Savannah, Queensland Wet Forest, Tasmanian Southern Snowfields, Southern Ocean, Lake Carpentaria, Eyre Sea|
During the drying of the world between the early and the middle Postocene, a landmass appeared, almost linking Sundaland and northern Australia together. The Australia of the future is rather diverse in life forms, especially the marsupials. Due to competition with introduced placentals, most of the large marsupial predators died out, with the main strongholds of the placentals being the north of the continent, though, even there, a few predatory marsupials survived and outcompeted the smaller placental predators. Despite this, the kangaroos and the marsupial herbivores of Australia have no competition from the introduced placental herbivores, and coexist quite happily with them.
Five Million Years Later
The earth is a grip of an ice age, drying the planet and making grasslands the most dominant and common habitat besides the ocean. Together with open spaces and a larger oxygen content, animals existing even the same species are significantly larger than their Holocene ancestors. Species that evolved from introduced organisms range across the continent, making it an awkward environment.
Australian Shelf Reefs
The oceans around Oceania have changed a great deal over the years in make-up. However, coral reefs remain, though the lowering of the sea level has made much of their former range on land.
- Bottle-nosed dolphin, Torsiops sp. -- This very common species easily survived, and competes with the reptilian seal goanna. Ecologically, it easily beats out the seal goanna for the truly pelagic niches. Curiously, dolphins in the north have hardly changed, but thse in the south have evolved into an entirely new species.
- Sea Kangaroo Thyladugon amphibius -- Sea kangaroos are amphibious creatures, capable of swimming for long distances and holding their breath for up to 10 minutes at a time. After the extinction of local sirenians, they fed in the shallows and gradually expanded to filling the niche left behind. During late autumn and early winter, once every two years, the female gives birth to a joey. Until the joey has matured enough to spend short periods of time on its own, the female is brought seaweed by other members of the mob. They are similar to Thalssocnus, a species of semi-aquatic ground sloth that went extinct during the Pleistocene, but are little bigger than modern small macropods.
- Seal Goanna, Neovaranus pinnipus -- Seal goannas are seal-like relatives of the New Mosasaurs that inhabit the coasts of the most Southeast parts of Asia, as well as Northeast Australia. They compete with dolphins and various other cetaceans, but are outcompeted in truly pelagic niches. Like the smoochers of the Northern hemisphere, they huddle the shorelines. But their relatives, the Aquavaranids, will take this to the extreme, inhabiting deeper waters.
- False-Beach Monitor, Varanus litoralis -- Descended from lace monitors, beach monitors are solitary creatures that can reach up to 2.5 meters long. Besides carrion, they feed on marine invertebrates. Beached whales can attract swarms of the lizards, and they will ruthlessly fight over prime feeding spots. The beach monitor lays up to twenty eggs, most of which are either eaten while an egg or shortly after hatching. Juveniles often hide in tidal pools. False-Beach Monitors share their common name with the Beach Monitor, a primitive, more aquatic, New Mosasaur that they co-exist with in some areas.
- Crocmonitor, Oravaranus aquatios -- Crocmonitors are specialised freshwater Aquavaranids, that fill the niche of the now extinct Australian Freshwater Crocodile. Crocmonitors have flippers, but still possess toes and can still walk. They feed on fish and crustaceans, but will sometimes eat bats and birds that fly low to the water. They are rather primitive compared to their relatives.
- Crab-eater, Neovaranus minor-- A species of monitor closely related to the Seal Goana, more so then either is to the Aquavaranids, they are specialized predators of crustaceans and other shelled prey. They are smaller and less social then their relatives, being about 2.2m long and having social habits similar to modern monitors.
- Mangrove Termite, Coptotermes aigialos -- Mangrove termites are a species of termite that is drawn to the scent of tannins in the water and has evolved an immunity to them. The termites are capable of walking on water, and chew into the wood, then bring it back to the nest. Mangrove termites actually use the tannins to make themselves mildly toxic (and very foul-tasting), lending them a reddish hue.
- Common Deep-water Mangrove, Rhizobathus vulgaris -- The common deep-water mangrove grows in Australia and most of southern Oceania, as well as much of Zealandia. It is by far the most widely distributed deep-water mangrove.
The cooling of the world has dried the outback giving it a desert like appearance. Descendants of Eucalyptus and Spinifex dot the landscape, and more edible invasive grasses are also present. The grasses support various herbivores including giants like cattlebeasts and greater stompers. Bushfires are common, ignited by lighting.
- Oxylania, Oxylania sp. -- Oxylania is a genus of small to medium sized semi-terrestrial crocodiles found throughout the northern areas of Australia. They hunt smaller animals like rabbits, rodents and bandicoots, but will sometimes hunt other animals that may be larger than they are. Like modern crocodiles, and also komodo dragons, large numbers of Oxylania may gather at a large kill. The two smaller species are predators of water prey, snakes, small mammals, and cane toads, but will eat carrion if they find it. The larger species is a Baurusuchus like, big game hunter, one of the largest predators on the continent, and a constant danger anywhere near water.
- Rainbow Serpent, Oxyuranus iridis -- The Rainbow serpent is a species of Taipan, probably descended from the Inland Taipan. Like its ancestor it is highly venomous, though it is not very aggressive. It derives its name from the colour of the scales when viewed from a certain direction, which give them a brilliant rainbow sheen. The venom is primarily used in feeding, as Rainbow serpents feed on larger, and more aggressive, native rodents and bandicoots which could otherwise seriously injure the snake, as opposed to mice and lizards like most other snakes. The venom is easily strong enough to kill any of the large megafauna they share their habitat with, though they usually flee at sight. The only animals that prey on them are some of the smaller species of Oxylania, and the Snake Kite, a large bird.
- Bush Dragon, Varanus validus -- The Bush Dragon is a very large (7 metres long) monitor lizard similar to Megalania, but more gracile. The cane toad didn't spreat much further south than the Tropic of Capricorn, so the monitors that dominated terrestrial niches in the presant survived and evolved. Eventually the Bush dragon evolved out of these animals, and took over the niche that Oxylania crocodiles occupy further north. Unlike Oxylania, which rely on the strength of their bite and on a short but swift charge, Bush dragons rely on endurance, speed and venom, as the bite and teeth are not strong enough to deal with bone. This however, means that some bones from a large animal are often ignored, and smaller animals can exploit this. By overall size, Bush Dragons are the largest modern day predator.
- Spirit Monitor, Varanus volitans -- A medium sized (1.5 m) long monitor lizard. Like many modern varanids, it is arboreal, and thus is rarely actually found in the savanna, but Spirit Monitors are strange in the fact that they are in the process of evolving flight. The lizards already have a wing membrane, stretching from their hand to their hind limb, and with three semi-elongated fingers to support another membrane between them. However, the ectothermic metabolism (prohibiting a sustained flapping motion for more than a few seconds) and relatively small size mean that these lizards are no 'dragons' yet.
- Greater Wombat, Vombatus immensus -- The Greater Wombat is a descendant of the common wombat that has grown to be abut 100kg in weight. This means that adults can no longer burrow for protection, though juvenile wombats still do. Greater Wombats have longer legs in proportion than their ancestors, though they are still shorter than those of most animals their size, and have thickened skin. This helps them survive attacks from predators. Greater Wombats are most common in eastern Australia, their niche in the west is filled by Cattlebeasts and Great Stompers.
- Australian Hunting Dog, Canis megistos australis -- An australian subspecies of the Philipine Hunting Dog found in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. They evolved when the original sundaland species rafted down into Australia then breed with the native dingoes eventually wiping the original dingo species out. They contain characteristics from both species, being fairly large and having a highly complex pack life.
- Boneater Fox, Vulpes spinos -- A fox descendant that fills niches of hyenas. They are often found around Bush Dragons, which don't eat large bones from prey items, and so provide food for these smaller predators. In order to avoid being eaten, boneater foxes are able to understand basic body language of the bush dragon, or any other large predator, though this is of limited success.
- Cattlebeast, Bubalis australis-- A species of wild cattle descended from water buffaloes introduced in the 19th century. Unlike their ancestors these creatures do not roam around in large herds, as the food found inside the outback can't supports large herds. With this cattlebeasts are significantly smaller than their ancestors, though they are the largest herbivour in Australia, at a hefty 500kg.
- Tuskerr, Sus australis -- A descendant of wild suids from indonesia, they evolved larger, standing roughly 2 meters tall and have a small back-hump, that stores fat and energy. They are opportunistic omnivores and use their outcurving tusks to dig for food. They have tannish-orange fur and dark brown hoof and nose markings.
- Northern Thylaena, Thylaena darwinius -- The northernmost species of Thylaena, similar to a Honey Badger or a Tasmanian Devil. More generalized than their southern relatives. They are roughly the size of a honey badger, and just as aggressive. They also partly fill niches of the fox, which evolved into a somewhat larger hyena like scavenger specialized in feeding in carrion.
- Great Stomper, Diubrachius ingens -- One of the largest kangaroos known, the Great Stomper, sometimes known as the Common Thunderoo, is a common herbivore found in most areas of Australia. They are rather different from their ancestors, which was probably the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, and this warents them their own subfamily, the Diubrachinae. Great Stompers are similar to the stenthurine kangaroos, which included Procoptodon goliath, the only known kangaroo larger than the Great Stomper. Being large has its drawbacks however. Like their ancestors, Great Stompers hop, but their size means they are slow to accelerate and can't go as fast as their smaller relatives. Most predators leave the Stompers alone, but the land living crocodile Oxylania goliath, with its tough, crocodilian armor, and pack hunting Australian Hunting Dog often target them as preferred prey. They have proportionally much longer arms than their ancestors and these arms play a more important role in locomotion, at least when they are not fleeing from a predator. The arms also make good weapons for close quarter combat.
- Echidnolin, Tachyglossus gigas -- The Echidnolin is a descendant of the common, adaptable and very wide ranging Short Beaked Echidna. Like the name suggests, they fill the niche of pangolins, although they also bare some resemblance to the modern Giant Anteater. They grow much larger than their ancestors because they need to be more powerful in order to break into the 'termite mountains' made by Mountain Termites. Their size and strength also help keep them safe from many of their predators.
- Australian Rabbit, Oryctolagus rubum -- A descendant of European rabbits released in the time of man. It is larger than it's descendants, they can weigh 13.80 to 18.60 kilograms. They feed on grasses, roots, tree leaves, and weeds.
- Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus --The same species alive today.
- Bush Cat, Felis usurpator -- A relatively large felid found in the western and central areas of the continent, filling the niches that are occupied by canids in the north, and predatory marsupials in the east. While definitely no lion, the bush cat is still an important predator in the areas it inhabits, with only Bush Dragons being serious competitors. Bush Cats living inland are generally somewhat larger, and often have longer teeth than those living near the coast. This is presumably to be able to kill large prey, though smaller macropods and Australian Rabbits make up most of their diet. These cats are also unique in that they possess very long whiskers, helping them to find prey in shallow holes.
- Microdermia, Microdermus convetus -- A descendant of deer introduced to Australia in the 18th century. These deer after humans evolved a unique morphology. They evolved a semi-proboscis, that helps them keep dust out of their nose and can also aid in eating. It is also faster and more agile, to escaped the various predators of the outback.
- Snake Kite, Milvus serpentophagus -- The Snake Kite is a descendant of the Black Kite, one of the most common raptor in the world. As its name suggests, it primarily eats snakes, including Rainbow Serpents, though they will eat many other animals too. The main difference from their ancestor is that Snake Kites have the longer legs, which they use to keep the rest of their body away from the snake. This is similar to the modern African Secretary Bird or South American Seriama. Snake Kites spend more time on the ground than most raptors, though they are still accomplished fliers.
- Imperial Emu, Dromaius imperiator -- A descendant of the Emu, the Imperial Emu is one of the largest birds in existence, weighing four hundred kg and standing almost three meters tall. Imperials are much slower than their ancestors, but can still run faster than most of the animals they coexist with. Like their ancestors, they are primarily herbivorous and are important distributors of several kinds of seeds, though they won't turn down carrion if they find it.
- Australian Vulture, Haliastur gyps -- A descendant of the Australia Whistling Kite, this bird is little different, aside from having longer tail feathers and a marked preference for carrion.
- Mountain termite, Oromymrex placoderma -- The Mountain Termite is a species of termite named, not because mountains are their preferred habitat, but because the Mounds (technically 'termite mountains') they create are the largest in the world. Some measure more than twenty meters high and are probably thousands of years old. The colonies breed very quickly and instead of moving on and starting a new mound, successive queens stay in the same mound and build on it. In this way, the mounds often have several nesting chambers, and can be taller than the trees around them. They have tougher skin than most termites, used to battle the immense heat of the outback. The 'mountains' are often used as lookouts by Snake Kites and other birds of prey.
- Aurochs Ant, Myrmecia monstrosa -- This ant species is specially adapted to hunt Mountain Termites, and are up to 3 cm long. They are part of the ant genus Myrmecia, who's modern members are often called "bull ants". While modern members of the species can be up to the same size, these ants are (even) more aggressive, are more slender, and are coloured completely black with an iridescent blue abdomen. These ants often swarm holes made by Echidnolins and other echidnas.
Tasmanian Southern Snowfields
While most of Australia is very hot during the day, it gets very cold at night. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Tasmania, the only part of Australia to have permanent snow. Tasmania is still an island (just) and its fauna, while still mammal dominated, is rather different than that on the mainland. Carnivorans are almost absent, restricted to a few small cat descendants. Taking their place are the Thylaenas, which in Tasmania, get much bigger than their relatives on the mainland. Prey animals are similar to those on the mainland, but the 'Tasmanian Cattlebeasts' really are descendants of farm cattle, rather than related Water Buffalo.
- Southern Wooly Wombat, Vombatus immensus tasmaniensis -- The Southern Woolly Wombat is a Tasmanian subspecies of the Greater Wombat, They are larger in size than their mainland relatives, and have a thick coat of fur to keep them warm in the snow. They are still good diggers, and they use this to dig through snow to reach grass and other buried vegetation.
- Wooly Stomper, Diubrachius australis -- The Woolly Stomper is a rather hairy Diubrachine kangaroo, found in Tasmania. They resemble their mainland relatives, but, like many Tasmanian mammals, possess thicker fur and a larger body mass relative to their size than those elsewhere.
- Tasmanian Thylaena, Thylaena tasmaniensis -- The largest terrestrial predator in Tasmania, being up to the size of a dire wolf. Their ancestors evolved a distinct taste for meat during the long period of isolation in the Holocene interglacial, which lasted much longer than it should have due to human actions. The ancestor in question is the Brushtail Possum, at present an omnivorous tree dweller, the most common Australian marsupial. Like Thylacoleo, they use their elongated lower incisor teeth to kill prey, though they are more like wolverines in appearance and behaviour.
The seas around Tasmania and southern australia lack any marine reptiles, no Aquavaranids, no Elasmoturtles, and no Seal Goannas, so the niches are filled by descendants of familiar marine creatures, mostly cetaceans, sharks and pinnipeds, but at least one species of predatory penguin has been identified.
- Kronoseal, Kronohydrurga pelagicos -- The Kronoseal is a large pinniped, a probable descendant of the leopard seal, and one of the top predators around southern Australia and Tasmania. They are far more derived than their ancestors, their flippers are longer and the body much more streamlined and rigid. The rear flippers are joined by a flap pf skin to the tail, forming a fluke, and the front flippers are large and powerful to provide the main swimming thrust. The nostrils have moved up to the top of the head, and the teeth have become more uniform in shape. The skull is also shaped differently than most seals, being longer, and lacking the cheek pouches most mammals have. This arrangement is similar to that found in cetaceans. The name 'Kronoseal' also hints to the resemblance to some of the large pliosaurs, though a resamblence to Dorudontid archaeocetaeans has also been noted. The name also hints at its dangerous and aggressive nature.
- Speartooth Dolphin, Torisops hastilus -- A descendant of the Bottlenose Dolphin, the Speartooth Dolphin is a little bit less 'cute and cuddly'. The front teeth face outward and interlock, similar to the teeth of a plesiosaur. This enables them to catch more fish quicker than their ancestor could. The teeth cause drag however, and Speartooths can't swim as fast as their ancestors can. Other prey is killed using the teeth like a spear, hence the name, and the prey is then shared with other pod members. Speartooths are larger than their ancestors, weighing about half a ton, but apart from that and their teeth, they are quite similar to their ancestors. Despite being relatively small for a cetacean, they have no known predators.
- Savage Penguin, Torvospheniscus carnifex -- The Savage Penguin is a predatory penguin species found in most of the southern ocean at this time, but is most common in Tasmania. Savage penguins are not significantly bigger than most penguins, about the size of a modern Emperor penguin, but they have a sharp, robust beak and tooth-like projections on the roof of their mouth. Despite their fierce nature, Savage Penguins are a common prey item of Kronoseals.
- Aldrak, Diomedea gigantea -- The Aldrak, or Tasmanian Giant Albatross, is an enormous seabird in the albatross family. With a wingspan of almost six meters, it is the largest albatross known, and is bigger than many pterosaurs. Apart from size however, they are rather similar to other albatrosses.
- Javelin Gannet, Morus hastilus -- A descendant of the Australasian Gannet, the Javelin Gannet, or Spearbird, gets its name from the way that it plunges into the sea to fish. Although gannets today also fish this way, the Javelin Gannet has mastered it. They have even been known to kill other animals with the force of the dive, including humans. The dive speed is almost equal to the modern Peregrine Falcon, and some birds have been recorded diving at over two hundred mph.
- Great White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias -- The same species that exists today, they are identical in most ways. They are, like many sea creatures at this time, on average slightly bigger than modern great whites, because of the absense of human predation. They are one of many species of holocene sharks that survived in colder waters and/or protected marine areas.
When sea levels fell in the last ice age, a lake, informally known as 'Lake Carpentaria', formed in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Now, several million years years later, this lake has re-formed, and is populated by many unique creatures isolated from the sea.
- Otterat, Lutromys carpentariensis -- A descendant of the Water Rat, or Rakali, the Otterat fills the niche of otters in the shallow shoreline areas of the lake. It is one of the few mammal species that is endemic to this lake. Otterats are about a meter long and as their name suggests, they resemble otters.
- Lake Snake, Laticaudata stagna -- A freshwater sea snake, related to the Banded sea krait. Similar to their ancestors, but larger and without a regular banded skin pattern. They are highly venomous, and bites are potentially fatal. They frequently hunt otterats and various other mammalian prey items.
- Rock Snake, Laticaudata muraena-- Also called the Moray Snake, for its somewhat similar lifestyle to moray eels, the Rock Snake is a close relative of the lake snake, but is smaller, being only around 60-80cm long at full size. They also lack banded skin, instead being a "messy" mix of browns, beiges, and whites. They are predators of the smaller inhabitants of the lake. They get their name from their habit to hie in the sand and under rocks, when not hunting, which they do in open water.
- Carpentarian Crocmonitor, Oravaranus aquatios carpentariensis -- A subspecies of the Crocmonitor only found in this lake and rivers that feed into it. They are similar in shape to some champsosaurs, but with seal-like flippers rather than distinct toes.
- Lake Bull, Carcharhinus stagnus -- The top predator of the lake is the Lake Bull, a descendant of the Bull Shark. They are rather similar to their ancestors (and are still maneaters), but hold the distinction of being the first known completely freshwater shark. Likewise, they can no longer go in saltwater, as it would kill them.
The world has warmed up since the end of the Ice Age, with all but some of Antarctica's ice having long since melted, leading to widespread flooding of lowland areas, and the development of vast shallow seas. Much of Australia's landmass has been flooded, and two main seas forming, on in the former Eyre Gulf, and another in northern Australia where the modern gulf of Carpentaria is. These seas are full of life. The land life is varied, with large introduced mammals and native marsupials co-existing side by side, large reptiles dominate most predatory niches, and the New Mosasaurs dominate the shallow seas. The small Spirit Monitor has evolved into the first of a long dynasty of flying monitors.
Australian Temperate Forest
The temperate areas of Australia have warmed since the Holocene, but most areas are still quite cold in the winter, and are one of the only areas where reptiles have not gained a dominant foothold. These areas abound with mammals, mostly small like rabbits and rodents, with some predatory carnivorans and marsupials. The largest animals here are large specialised kangaroos, and giraffe-like camels.
Queensland Wet Forest
Unlike the contrasting temperate forest of the south, the northern coasts are warm, and are much wetter than today, supporting a thriving rainforest. In these forests, large mammals are rare, and terrestrial crocodiles are the dominant land-based predators. Unlike forests today, the dominant fiers are not birds, but flying, venomous, endothermic reptiles, the descendants of the Spirit monitor.
The Lake Eyre basin today is a large dry basin, with a number of salt lakes at its center. But the future will change this place dramatically. In only about 800 years, the accelerated melting of Antarctica causes sea levels to rise by as much as 90 metres, and the basin soon flooded once the sea broke through. This dramatically changes the climate of central Australia. In roughly 10 million years time, a similar, though less rapid, event resulted in the formation of the Eyre Sea, a large shallow ocean covering much of Central Australia. Unlike the similar shallow seas of northern Australia, which are populated by a diverse though localised marine reptile population, the Eyre Sea is populated by descendants of cold-water fauna of the south. Saltwater Crocodiles from the north have also migrated to the sea, and are abundant along the coasts.