Published On: Tue, Jul 26th, 2016

Ancient Australian flesh-eating marsupial discovered


Ancient Australian flesh-eating marsupial discovered

Sydney: A new species of extinct flesh-eating marsupial that terrorised Australia’s forests some five million years ago has been identified from a recently discovered fossil site, scientists said today.

The animal, weighing 20 to 25 kilograms and named Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum, is a distant and bigger cousin of Australia’s largest living flesh-eating marsupial — the Tasmanian Devil. It is the first creature to be formally identified from a range of strange new animals whose remains have been found at a fossil site in remote northwestern Queensland.

“W tomnpatrichorum had very powerful teeth capable of killing and slicing up the largest animals of its day,” said University of New South Wales professor Mike Archer, the lead author of a study into the find published in the Memoirs of Museum Victoria. The late Miocene period between 12 and five million years
ago, when Australia began to dry out and megafauna began to evolve, is one of the least understood in the vast continent’s past, he added.

Fossils of land animals from this time are extremely rare. “Fortunately, in 2012, we discovered a whole new fossil field that lies beyond the internationally famous Riversleigh World Heritage Area fossil deposits in northwestern Queensland,” said Archer. With a grant from the National Geographic Society, Archer and his colleagues began to explore the “New Riversleigh” site in 2013 and the species’ highly distinctive molar was one of the first finds.

“New Riversleigh is producing the remains of a bevy of strange new small to medium-sized creatures, with Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum, the first one to be described,” said Archer. “These new discoveries are starting to fill in a large
hole in our understanding about how Australia’s land animals transformed from being small denizens of its ancient wet forests to huge survivors on the second most arid continent on Earth.” Team member Suzanne Hand said medium- to large-sized Australian Late Miocene creatures have previously been known
from fossil deposits in the Northern Territory.

“But those deposits give almost no information about the small to medium-sized mammals that existed at the same time, which generally provide more clues about the nature of prehistoric environments and climates,” Hand said.

News Source Deccan Chronicle

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Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology