The late Miocene was a time of global drying and cooling. As ice rapidly accumulated at the poles, sea-levels fell, rainfall decreased and rainforests retreated. Many plant and animal groups died out and other forms, better adapted to a drying world, took their place.
Australia's late Miocene facts
- Australia was isolated from other landmasses but its northern edge had collided with groups of islands in South East Asia.
- From the middle Miocene, as polar ice sheets rapidly began to grow in Antarctica, Australia became progressively drier.
- In the late Miocene, sea-levels dropped. In southern Australia, the Nullarbor Plain - once the limestone bottom of an ancient sea - was exposed.
- Rainforests retreated to the wetter coastal areas of Australia. Open forests and woodlands were spreading in the drier inland areas.
- Great herds of large wombat-like marsupials roamed Australia - some had even developed trunks.
- A new group of kangaroos that hopped began to dominate over their slower four-footed walking relatives.
- Gigantic thunder birds ruled the Australian roost.
- The fiercest predators included powerful flesh-eating marsupials called thylacines and lioness-sized marsupial lions.
What was happening in the rest of the world
- Grasslands were spreading in Africa, Asia and North America.
- Ancestral forms of apes lived in Africa, Europe and Asia.
- Like Australia, South America had many marsupial groups, including the ancestors of sabre-toothed marsupials.