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Dec 8, 2008

An Unexpected Stripe-Faced Flying Fox in Ice Age Rock Art of Australia's Kimberley

Authors: "Jack" Pettigrew, Marilyn Nugent, Anscar McPhee, Josh Wallman

An ancient cave painting from northern Australia depicts a previously unknown species of large bat. The team thinks the rock art from Australia's Kimberley region could date to the height of the last Ice Age - about 20-25,000 years ago.

The keen observation and accurate depictions of the natural world shown here, as well as the extraordinary longevity of the stains used, all tend to support the side of the controversy that posits a distinct cultural entity. We describe a painting unmistakably depicting flying foxes with features not found in bats presently found in Australia. Thermoluminescence dating of wasp nest overlying the art suggests an ice age migration to Australia, either of the bats or of the artists who painted them, a more likely scenario biologically than younger dates.

The bat depictions were found on a sandstone wall protected by overhangs, near Kalumburu (14.30 °S; 126.64 °E), amongst other walls showing characteristic "Bradshaw" art.

The depiction shows eight roosting "megabats" (flying foxes, Family Pteropodidae, sub-Order Megachiroptera) hanging from a slender branch, or more likely, a vine. Each bat has a distinctive white facial stripe and pale underbelly.

Identification of the animals depicted as 'pteropodids' is unmistakable because of their elongated faces, simple ears, flexed head postures (which all contrast with the smaller insect-eating microbats.) University of Queensland, "Antiquity" 2008

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Posted: Dec 8, 2008 10:29pm


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Jenny Dooley
, 3, 2 children
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