Lead author Dr Anna Gillespie, a palaeontologist from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, says that the latest finding raises new questions about the evolutionary relationships of marsupial lions
: "The identification of these new species have brought to light a level of marsupial lion
diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family."
There may be as many as 3,000 individual animals buried at Alcoota, including the worlds largest bird, marsupial lions
, marsupial wolves and herds of giant browsing cousins of the wombat.
Preying on them were goannas the size of large saltwater crocodiles with toxic saliva and bizarre but deadly marsupial lions
with flick-blades on their thumbs and bolt cutters for teeth," said Associate Professor Wroe.
Scientists have discovered fossils of marsupial lions
, kangaroos as tall as lorries and wombats the size of present-day rhinos in deep caves in the Nullarbor desert, east of Perth.
Meet giant wombats, carnivorous kangaroos, huge diprotodons, bizarre 'thingadontans', marsupial lions
, and ancient bats and rats through the colourful pages of Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea.
When early humans first landed in Australia, some 50,000 years ago, they torched the landscape and killed off an arkful of fantastic beasts, including carnivorous kangaroos, marsupial lions
, car-sized tortoises, and 25-foot-long lizards.
Naracoorte Caves are one of the worlds most important fossil sites, and a wealth of megafauna fossils, including diprotodon, marsupial lions
and giant kangaroos, have been found there.
The megafauna included three-metre tall giant kangaroos and marsupial lions
, as well as giant birds and reptiles.
Unlike their modern relatives, the ancient bats had plenty of predators, including marsupial lions
and carnivorous kangaroos.
Central to the debate has been the demise of the Australian megafauna, including animals such as marsupial lions
, hippopotamus-sized wombats and the 2m-tall giant kangaroo rocoptodon goliah.
According to a report in Cosmos magazine, researchers have now found the first convincing example of a marsupial lion
in rock art to date, which suggests that early Australians and marsupial lions
Previously known rock paintings hinted at marsupial lions
, but were rudimentary and could have depicted the other striped marsupial predator, the dog-size Tasmanian "tiger."