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Australia: Fossil Marsupial Finds
Nice pic too.
Eight complete skeletons of prehistoric marsupial lions are among an
astonishing menagerie of megafauna fossils discovered in a hidden cave in
Australia's outback desert. Only partial skeletons have been found before.
Among the creatures, all of which are now extinct, are extremely
well-preserved partial skeletons of giant wombats (Phascolonus gigas) and
a three metre-tall short-faced giant kangaroo (Procoptodon goliah). A
smaller unidentified kangaroo with strange horn-like protrusions on its
skull may well represent a new species.
John Long, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the Western Australian Museum
in Perth told New Scientist: "It's truly a phenomenal find. ..."
Three species of Sthenurus kangaroo and two Tasmanian tigers (Thylacine),
were also found in the deep caves. These appear to have acted as death
traps for passing animals over thousands of years.
Precise dating has only just begun, but Long says the site easily fitted
into the Pleistocene, between 1.75 million and 46,000 years ago.
Most of the fossils were uncovered in dry and dark conditions ideal for
their preservation. In fact, so well preserved that Long was able to
extract samples of DNA from the pulp cavity of one of the marsupial lions
(Thylacoleo carnifex, as well as other soft tissue, hair and even blowfly
remains, all of which have been sent to a laboratory in the UK for
Scientists hope the extracted DNA might help settle a debate about whether
marsupial lions are descended from possums or from wombats - a hotly
debated point in megafauna evolution.