What Do Dick Smith And A 20 Million Year Old Koala Have In Common?

The novelty of having something named after oneself is a pleasure few of us will ever enjoy. Aussie entrepreneur Dick Smith, however? He's now part of this exclusive club with a prehistoric koala, recently discovered in northern Australia, the proud owner of the name "Litokoala dicksmithi".

The unearthing of the ancient koala is detailed in a paper published this month in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. You'll have to cough up some coin to peruse its pages, fortunately, the University of Queensland released a statement earlier this week announcing the news and a few details.

In it, the university's Dr Julien Louys explains why Smith was given this unique honour:

"We chose the name to thank Mr Smith for his long-term financial support of Australian science, in particular, of fossil research at the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in north western Queensland."

According to lead researcher Dr Karen Black of UNSW, the 20-million year old koala weighed less than 4kg — about one-third of the modern creature we all know and love. Along with larger eye sockets, it's postulated that Dicksmithi was a "more active, agile tree climber" and likely feasted on fruit and rainforest flora, rather than eucalyptus leaves.

As for the little guy's fate, it's believed "drier conditions" led to significant changes in habitat, which didn't give Dicksmithi, or its relatives, much of a chance of escaping extinction.

[University Of Queensland]

Image: Rennett Stowe / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

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