Australian scientists have uncovered the remains of 3-ton marsupial the size of a rhinoceros that lived 2 million years ago.
The Daily Telegraph reports that paleontologists in Queensland have unearthed a nearly complete skeleton of the wombat-like creature, known as a diprotodon. Scientists say the find is one of Australia’s most significant prehistoric discoveries.
“It was the biggest of them all—the biggest marsupial that ever lived on any continent,” said Sue Hand, one of the researchers involved in the discovery. "It was a bit like a wombat but looked more like a massive, rhino-type beast. ... We've found the skull and jaws, as well as most of the rest of the skeleton. It's a really good specimen."
The animal, which had enormous tusks and a small brain, walked the Australian continent about 2.5 million years ago. Scientists believe the animal succumbed to extinction about 55,000 years ago, due to either the arrival of the first indigenous peoples, climate change, or some combination of the two.
The unearthing was a long time in the making. Researchers first spotted an arm bone sticking out of the ground sometime last year. Further digging revealed the skeleton, as well as the tooth of a giant goanna, a type of lizard that may have eaten part of the diprotodon’s carcass.
The Telegraph describes the area where the remains were discovered as a hotbed of “prehistoric megafauna,” which is a term used for big, old animals, and probably some new band from Brooklyn.
Over the past four decades, researchers in the area have discovered evidence of giant kangaroos, giant lizards, and other things typically found only in the nightmares of the average Australian child.