Pollen analysis of samples from a short sediment sequence on the Atherton Tableland, of Late Tertiary or Early Pleistocene age, provides the first evidence of existing vegetation within the region prior to about 100, 000 years B.P. Comparison of fossil samples with modern pollen spectra suggests the presence of a submontane rainforest existing under a temperature regime some 3°C cooler than present. A number of ancient taxa including Nothofagus and several conifers, present in the fossil samples, no longer exists within the region. An attempt is made to explain their decline within an area that harbours a great diversity of rainforest species including many primitive angiosperms. Unfavourable climatic conditions combined with aspects of the dispersal ecology of the taxa would have been important contributing factors.