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- Main article: What if the Asteroid Missed?
Australia, traditionally the land of the marsupials, has possibly the strangest and most exotic fauna of all the continents, with giant sauropods and ornithopods, fierce predatory tyrannosaurs and maniraptorans, giant terrestrial turtles, lizards and crocodiles, terrifying shark-toothed pterosaurs, and even drop bears and bunyips.
Mammals are common in Australia, with most small niches being occupied by them, with some larger species here and there.
Like home earth Australia, the most common mammals are marsupials. However, for unclear reasons, most of home earth's Australian marsupials never evolved. Instead, most of the local marsupials are closely related to South American species, with the common predators being Gondwanacyonoids. Given this close relation to american species, and strong competition with other animals, the overall genetic diversity is extremely low compared to home earth.
Plummetursidae (Marsupial Predators)Edit
The australian species are grouped into one large family, the Plummetursidae. One species, the Yeepa, has evolved a form remarkably similar to the home earth Thylacine, a striking example of convergent evolution. Taking the prize of top terrestrial mammalian predator is a fearsome hunter called the Custarine, an excellent climber, the Australian equivalent of a leopard. The Custarine is also noted of its unusually large hind feet, which allow it to stand upright, in a manner similar to a kangaroo. The Custarine also bares a resemblance to a fictitious home earth marsupial, the 'Drop Bear', hence the scientific name Plummetursus sarcasticus. As they are similar in niche to the dinosaurian Repenosaurs, Custarines are only found in more temperate areas, and are absent altogether north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
- Custarine, Plummetursus sarcasticus
- Yeepa, Felicyon tasmaniensis
Herbivorous mammals are very different to home earth however. Many are placentals known as 'Ozsloths', which are flat footed, bear-like xenarthrans.
The Xenarthra are the dominant placental mammals of Australia.
The Ozsloths are large animals, similar to bears, and to the namesake ground sloths. Unlike some other xenarthrans, the Ozsloths have flat feet, and walk on the palms of their hands, much like bears. Several species live on the continent, with larger species living on the eastern side of the continent, and smallest species living in the central arid outback. A dwarf species, about one meter tall at the shoulder, lives in Tasmania. Ozsloths are grouped into the family Ursuvernatidae, or bear sloths.
Arboramplexatoridae (Tree Huggers)Edit
The other family of australian xenarthrans are the Arboramplexatorids, or 'tree huggers'. Tree huggers are almost all arboreal, being similar in lifestyle to koalas, and to familiar home earth sloths. Tree huggers are today restricted to the east side of the continent, though Pleistocene fossils indicate that they once lived on the southwest coast. Genetic studies show that, despite lacking armour, and overall looking more like ground sloths, the Australian xenarthrans, and thus all extant xenarthrans in this timeline, are actually Cingulatans, related to armadillos.
- Common Ozsloth, Ursuvernatus vulgaris
- Southern Bear Sloth, Ursuvernatus australis
- Tree Hugger, Arboramplexator phascoloarctoides
Monotremes are more diverse and successful than they are in Home Earth.
The platypusses are much more diverse than on home earth, with roughly 9 species in two families being known from the Southern Hemisphere
The monotremes of this realm are much the same as their home earth counterparts, though only the platypus lineage exists, with echidnas only evolving in the home earth Miocene. However, there is not one species of platypus, but four, and they also occure on the western side of the continent, and in New Guinea.
- Platypus, p-Ornithorynchus sp.
Cryovociferatidae (Bunyipus, etc.)Edit
The oddball of the family is a monster. The 'bunyipus' is a terrestrial member of the Cryovociferatidae, which are otherwise marine, otter-like Antarctic animals. Roughly the size of a large dog, but with the build and predatory tendancies of a honey badger, the bunyipus is a powerful predator of most animals in their habitat, particularly tough or dangerous prey other predators avoid, like snakes and small monitor lizards. The electrosense that most monotremes have is lessened in the bunyipus, but is still strong enough to find buried prey like frogs and false file snakes.
- Bunyipus, Terrestriornithorynchus wolverinus
Non-Avian DinosaursEditLike on most continents, Dinosaurs occupy the megafauna niches, but those in Australia are more reminiscent of the mesozoic, and include the last surviving sauropods.
Sauropods are a rare but mighty presance in Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, where titans the size of elephants and taller than giraffes roam amongst the eucalypts and low hills.
All sauropods after the K-Pg boundry were Titanosaurs, and up until the ETM, they were global in range, but most common in Gondwana. The ETM wiped out the northern sauropods, and in the resulting cooling phase, the Antarctic genera also went extinct, while African genera went extinct in the Oligocene for uncertain reasons. Australian and South American sauropods were still going strong. South American genera all but went extinct in the Pliocene with the migration of North American genera across the Isthmus of Panama, but the giant Antarctoposeidon may have survived until the late Pleistocene, and survival until the present is likely, though not yet confirmed. The only confirmed living sauropods, however, are the Australian Nothotitanids.
This group includes all known living sauropods. Members of this group are all large, with average sizes of 15 metres and weighing up to 10 tons. The family have decreased in diversity since the Pliocene, but there are still roughly three species found throughout New Guinea and Northern Australia. The north Australian species is the largest species, and occurs largely in tropical climates (dark green on the map). The other two species occur in more restricted ranges on the northern and southern plains of Papua New Guinea. A fourth, now extinct, species lived around the Lake Eyre basin in the Pleistocene, when the lakes were sustained by melting glaciers. This species was slightly larger than the modern north Australian species, but had less armour, and had an ossified tail. A complete skeleton, including preserved skin showing the ossified tail scutes, has been recovered south of Alice Springs.
- Carpentarian Titan, Nothotitan carpentariensis
- †Nothotitan pachylurus
The theropods are the most common dinosaurs in australia, and are represented by several families.
All Australian theropods known are coelurosaurs, aside from the Jurassic Ozraptor, and some partial bones from the mid Cretaceous. The coelurosaurs are also the only living theropods on the continent.
Australonychidae (Australian Notos)Edit
The tallest non-avian dinosaur in australia is the omnivorous, Dromornithid-like Demun. Various smaller Australonychids occupy running niches, that in home earth are occupied by flightless ground birds. A more robust relative of the Demun, the similar sized Corvan, is the most predatory member of the group, and is comparable to the closely related Notonychids of the Americas, though still far outclassed by the larger Cheirotyrants.
- Demun, Australonychus dromaius
- Corvan, Tasmanovenator megacorvoides
- Tasmanian Dwarf Noto, Australonychus diemensis
While the northern continents were dominated by the famous Tyrannosaurids, the southern continents had their own tyrannosaurs, the Megaraptorans. Unlike the short arms of Laurasian tyrannosaurs, the megaraptors had long powerful arms that were tipped with enormous claws. While they only definately made it to the end of the cretaceous in South America, with the genus Orkoraptor, in the early cenozoic they greatly diversified, spread out, and evolved into several families. The Eocene Thermal Maximum, however, signalled a change, and shortly afterwards the Antarctic genera went extinct. Those in South America also declined due to the resulting competition from Baurusuchids, and later the Jaguasuchids, and eventually went extinct in the Pliocene when their northern relatives, the Novotyrannids, invaded the continent. In Australia however, the Megaraptors survived, and evolved into the Cheirotyrannids, the apex predators of the continent.
The living Cheirotyrannids are the only living coelurosaurs which are not covered in feathers, with only a thin coat on the back of the neck and tail. The teeth are generally blade-like, like most theropods, though unusual for advanced tyrannosaurs. Compared to most theropods, Cheirotyrants have very long and quite flexible arms, which have massive claws. Modern day Cheirotyrants average 6 metres in length, but individuals up to 9 metres are not uncommon. With few exceptions, cheirotyrants are the apex predators of the continent.
- Outback Tyrant, Cheirotyrannus vasitas
The ornithopods are also major players in Australia, and are the most common herbivores on the continent. The group also includes a lineage of mostly predatory arboreal forms, largely found in Papua New Guinea.
Iguanodontians, most famously represented by the early Cretaceous Iguanodon, have long since gone extinct elsewhere. The group still survives in Australia, however, and dominate most herbivore niches.
Most of the herbivores of the continent are also dinosaurs, known as Ozbeasts. These behemoths occur throughout the continent, and also on Papua New Guinea. Most species have long necks, and are largely browsers, though they generally stick to lower growing vegetation, to avoid competition with sauropods.
- Greater Ozbeast, Australotherium elephantoides
This group of ornithopods are predators, and are mostly arboreal. They have evolved a highly specialised skull and teeth, making them among the most specialised predatory dinosaurs known. The fossil record is nonexistant beyond the Oligocene, but the group is believed to have evolved ultimately from small basal ornithopods similar to the early cretaceous Leaellynasaura.
The repenosaurs are largely carnivorous ornithopods mostly found on the island of Papua New Guinea, and are common predators of the tree tops. The family are thought to have evolved in the Oligocene, as fossils from the Riversleigh deposites first appear around this point. From a distance, Repenosaurs are little different from other ornithopods, save for the long arms and semi-prehensile tail, adaptations for arboreal living. The head, however, is unusual for an ornithopod. The beak that all ornithopods possess has evolved a hook shape and a sharp edge, and the first tooth on the upper jaw has elongated and sharpened to form a stabbing tool, giving the head a look similar to that of the long extinct Heterodontosaurs. The teeth on the lower jaw have merged into a serrated cutting blade, as have the back teeth on the upper jaw, giving them an efficient cutting edge. The largest species, at over 3 metres long, is the Leaping Terror, the top predator in much of Papua New Guinea, and even in some parts of mainland Australia, particularly in more forested areas, where they have the advantage of manoverability.
- Common Repenosaur, Repenosaurus vulgaris
- Leaping Terror, Repenosaurus carpentariensis
Birds are, as everywhere, are very prevalent, though there are less large predatory species due to competition with the more aggressive aerocarcharid pterosaurs.
Odontaviformes have produced a myriad of species ranging from the hawk-like Australian hazzard to the sparrow sized tuskfinch.
- Australian hazzard, Odontornis australiensis
- Tuskfinch, Odontopasser capra
PterosauriaEditPterosaurs are prominent predators in Australia, and are found throughout the continent.
In Gondwana, and later Australia, the primitive anurognathid pterosaurs have survived, and have evolved into a superfamily of terrifying, if relatively small, aerial predators, the Anurognathoidea.
Aerocarcharidae (Sky Sharks)Edit
The anurognathoids of both worlds had deep skulls and sharp teeth. The only surviving family, the aerocarcharids, or "anures", have taken this skull design to the next level, evolving shark-like teeth, and powerful jaws. 'Aerocarcharid', in fact, means 'sky shark'. Anurognathids were also very small pterosaurs, but with those niches taken by birds, the aerocarcharids evolved into larger forms, some with wingspans of over two metres. These predators now dominate the Australian skies. An interesting feature of this group is the presence of a long tail, made mostly of cartilage. The long tail is a feature only found in this family amongst all other anurognathoids, and most likely evolved for display purposes. The lack of a bony support means the tail is very flexible, and there are no major blood vessels or nerves in the tail. In the event of an attack by larger predators, the tail can be dropped, much like the tail of many lizards, though totally unique among pterosaurs. The lack of a tail reduces the speed of the animal, but dramatically increases the manourverability, helping them to escape. When the long tail evolved is unknown, as the cartilage that forms most of it doesn't fossilize, however, trace impressions of the tail in fossils found at Riversleigh suggest it was already present by the Miocene. The smaller species of the family also occupy niches of some bats, and live in caves, which they protect fiercely. When an animal they perceive as a threat enters the cave, the small pterosaurs may mass attack the intruder, and do so surprisingly silently. This earns them the nickname of "cave piranhas", and more locally as "silentbutdeadlies".
Some species have been blown by air currents to the islands north of Australia, where a wide variety of specialised species now exists. A similar event resulted in the colonisation of the South Pacific islands, and New Zealand. On New Zealand's North Island, where most of the predatory avian fauna of the South Island is not present, these pterosaurs have become apex predators, with heads measuring up to 50 centimeters long and with wingspans of over three metres. All New Zealand pterosaurs are grouped into the genus Harpydraco.
- Sky shark, Aerocarcharius tyrannus
- Desert anure, Aerocarcharius desertus
- Night fury, Harpydraco nocturnus (NZ)
Crocodilians are much the same as those on home earth, though there is a family of primarily terrestrial species known as Terracrocs, which are similar to the Pleistocene, home earth crocodile Quinkana. One small species in Papua New Guinea and northern Australia may be a primitive Sebecosuchian, though this may be convergence. The traditional crocodile fauna, including the notorious Saltwater Crocodile, is relatively the same as on home earth.
- Australian False Jagugator, Terrasuchus major
- Saltwater Crocodile, p-Crocodylus porosus
The most well armoured Australian residents are the Panzerturtles, giant descendants of Meiolaniid turtles that fill the niche of Ankylosaurs. These juggernauts are much bigger than any similar turtle, even their extinct home earth relatives like Meiolania and Ninjemys, and large individuals can tip the scales at over a ton in weight. An alternate name, given by fanciful pioneers, is the 'Dragon Turtle', mainly because the horns that characterise the group have evolved into lances that can impale an attacking Cheirotyrant, making these otherwise slow and docile herbivores a dangerous prey. These animals, being hot blooded only because their great size and solid shell retains the heat efficiently, are only found in the northern and central areas of the continent.
- Whacktail, Juggernautus major.
- Turtoceras, Juggernautus aridus.
- Dragon Turtle, Dracochelys aggressivus
Unlike other Australian groups, the squamates are relatively unchanged compared to home earth. However, there are still many differences to the familiar fauna, some blindingly obvious, some completely hidden.
The monitor lizards, the largest terrestrial lizards of both Home Earth and WitAM and close relatives of the great mosasaur dynasty, are alive and well in Australia. In fact, with most of Australia being too cold for crocodiles, monitors are more successful here than anyware else in the world. That said, most species are rather ordinary when compared to the more endothermic components of the fauna. All except one notable exception.
That exception is a creature called the paintooth Lizard, a monster to rival even the cheirotyrants. The paintooth lizard gets its rather unjustified name because, like most monitors, it uses venom to kill its prey. Groups of paintooth lizards will attack prey up to the size of a greater ozbeast, before following the victim for up to a week until it dies, much the same strategy as that of Komodo dragons, and of most reptiles. The real difference to other similar lizards of WitAM is their size. At up to 5 metres long and 250kg in weight, this lizard dwarfs any other terrestrial lizard in Australia, and is more than capable of competing with the dinosaurian and mammalian predators of the continent. Paintooth lizards differ from the giant extinct and living monitors of home earth in that they are adapted to have a powerful bite, with their skull build much more like that of a crocodile than that of a Komodo dragon or megalania. The teeth are also different, in order to fit this higher bite force, they are more conical, and are shaped similar to those of many theropods. This species is the only living member of the family to possess these features, though fossils have been found of smaller relatives as far back as the late Miocene. Most other monitors of Australia are actually more venomous than on home earth, but have a weaker bite for their size.
- Paintooth lizard, Vipervaranus dolor
The Matsoiidae are a family of archaic snakes that went extinct about 40,000 years ago in home earth. in WitAM, these snakes are widespread in Australia and southeast Asia, with their closest home earth equivalents being file snakes. The snakes are known to spend their time buried in the mud, a tempting food source for bunyips. Like all matsoiids, false file snakes can't extend their jaws as far as other snakes, and can only feed on relatively smaller prey than their home earth equivalents. A number of venomous snakes also attain slightly larger average sizes than their home earth counterparts, though are otherwise little different.