The dreaded Australian marsupial Lion !

Australian Lion -

The dreaded Australian marsupial Lion !

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The Thylacoleo carnifex was Australia's largest carnivorous mammal. The discovery of an almost complete specimen has made it possible to trace the lifestyle of this frightening predator, whose bite was the most powerful of all extinct and current mammals 🦁.

The dreaded Australian marsupial lion, which disappeared 40,000 years ago, has been reconstructed...

"One of the most formidable predators ever to have existed on Earth", as described by the biologist and paleontologist Sir Richard Owen when he discovered the first bones (a skull and jaw) of the Thylacoleo carnifex in 1859. Better known as the marsupial lion, it was roaming the forests of Australia during the Pleistocene period. Disappeared about 40,000 years ago, it was the last representative of carnivorous marsupials on Earth. The animal had fascinated scientists from then on, resembling no other mammal of our time.

How the Australian lion must have looked like.

How the Australian lion probably looked like. 

But until now, much of its morphology and way of life has remained unknown. This has now been done, thanks to the work of two researchers from Flinders University and the National Museum of South Australia, published in the journal PlosOne. They were able to reconstruct an almost complete skeleton thanks to the recent discovery of new bones, including a specimen from the Nullarbor Plain with tail and clavicles. They have thus assembled a puzzle of several hundred bones 🦴by comparing them with those of other known species to deduce their way of life.

Thylacoleo carnifex lived more than 40,000 years ago.

Overpowered paws armed with claws to strike down its prey. About 1.5 meter long (a size between the leopard and the African lion), the marsupial lion could reach 100 kg. It had a good ability to climb trees or cave walls, which it frequented. Its very stiff and muscular tail served as a tripod with its two hind legs when it needed to free its front legs to climb trees or handle food. Its powerful forelimbs combined with a stiff lower back suggests, however, that it must not have been very good at running. But with its paws armed with sharp claws, the Australian lion was an outstanding hunter for jumping on its prey and grabbing it by the throat. "T. carnifex used his incisors in a way that is unparalleled among existing carnivores," the authors report. "It was capable of severing the spinal cord or tendons in the neck, causing massive trauma to a prey in difficulty. Its massive legs and teeth also allowed it to shred carcasses by breaking bones.

Australian lion reconstitution.

A reconstruction of the skeleton and musculature of Thylacoleo carnifex.

The Marsupial Lion.

In the end, the anatomy of the marsupial lion is reminiscent of that of the Tasmanian tiger 🐅, which disappeared much more recently at the beginning of the 20th century. But Thylacoleo carnifex actually belonged to a single lineage, whose most distant ancestor is the Diprotodon, another representative of the Australian Pleistocene megafauna.

Decimated... by the lack of trees to hide in...

In October, a study by the University of Queensland and UNSW revealed that the seemingly invisible animal did not survive Australia's aridification. While it had been using trees as a hiding place for its prey, it had found itself very helpless when the forests turned into steppes, with nowhere to hide. "This disappearance is a lesson for our future," said Larisa DeSantis, one of the study's co-authors. "Even the largest predators can succumb to climate change. »

Axelle - Lion Republic writer.


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