Giant 'drop crocs' and a 400-kilogram ‘Demon Duck of Doom’ may have been the weirdest animals to ever roam the Australian outback famed palaeontologist Mike Archer says.
Professor Archer appeared as a guest speaker at Wet Tropics Management Authority’s inaugural ‘Science in the Pub’ event, held this month at Cairns’ Cape York Hotel.
During his presentation, the University of New South Wales professor touched on tales of incredible tree climbing crocodiles and ‘strange’ birds living in north-west Queensland millions of years ago.
"We're lucky they're not still around to kick the dunny doors down," he told a crowd of more than 180 guests.
Fellow speaker, James Cook University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Iain Gordon joined Professor Archer on stage to flesh out the connection between Riversleigh’s fossils and the Wet Tropics today.
But the incredible tree climbing crocodiles that lived in Riversleigh more than 25 million years ago caught many in the crowd off-guard.
"Their limb structure indicates that they were climbers," Prof Archer said.
"They had longer legs than crocodiles today. My guess is that they didn’t have that sort of sprawling gait that you think about with crocodiles.
"It’s possible … that they were running more like a mammal. They were weird."
It's uncertain whether the three-metre tall 'Demon Duck' was carnivorous but Professor Archer said the bird undoubtedly cut an imposing figure in the wild.
"This was the biggest bird ever in the world. We’re talking about something twice the size of a cassowary," he said.
"These were not birds to treat lightly."
The Authority’s Executive Director Scott Buchanan said the event gave people rare insight into the Wet Tropics past.
"Many of the fossils found at Riversleigh are the ancient relatives of the wildlife we see in the Wet Tropics today," Mr Buchanan said.
"This is our first ‘Science in the Pub’ and judging by the public’s interest we expect we’ll be hosting many more in the future."