Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Marsupial Lions Were Similar to Tassie Devil

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New research into the first complete skeleton of an extinct marsupial lion provides extraordinary insights into its hunting ability, social traits, and similarities with the iconic Tasmanian devil.

Flinders University researchers set out to analyse the skeleton of Thylacoleo carnifex after new remains were discovered, including the only known complete skeleton, in caves in Naracoorte and the Nullarbor Plain. Their findings, published in PLOS ONE (https://goo.gl/JDARhm), confirm that Thylacoleo was a skilled climber, whether moving through the tree canopy or through caves, despite weighing more than 100 kg. Its heavy, muscular tail would have helped it balance, and would have freed its forelimbs to capture prey and manipulate food.

The researchers also concluded that the anatomy of the marsupial lion is most similar to the Tasmanian devil, which is the largest marsupial carnivore still living in Australia today .

“These recent fossil discoveries in South Australian caves enabled us to finally assemble a complete skeleton of the marsupial lion, including the tail and collar bone, for the first time ever,” says study author Prof Rod Wells. “We concluded that the marsupial lion was a stealth or ambush predator of larger prey, a niche not dissimilar to that of the Tasmanian devil, which...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.