Flinders University Analysis reveals the true nature of South Australia's largest predators, the now extinct marble thief (Thylacoleo carnifex) after the only complete skeleton was found in caves under Nullarbor.
In a paper published today in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers describe a skilled climber with a heavy muscular tail that helped balance and release the forelegs to attack and consume swapping.
Headwriter Professor Rod Wells says spraying at Henschke's Quarry, Naracoorte, in 2007 exposed a hole with almost complete residues of several individuals and then the great discovery of a complete skeleton in a hole below Nullarbor Plain.
"Examining the entire skeleton reveals what a truly unique animal thylacoleo was," he said.
"It looked like a cross between a possum and a wombat, climbed a bit like a koala and moved with a stiff bag of Tasmanian devils while filling a niche different from any other animal on earth."
In fact, the anatomy of the animal is most similar to the Tasmanian devil, the largest mammal in Australia today.
In millions of years Thylacoleo carnifex was Australia's largest and wildest mammalian farm that used its climbing ability to backbreak until megafauna disappeared about 40,000 years ago.
The eradication of Australia's largest poppers has fascinated palaeontologists who have tried to determine the lifestyles of life, as it was first described using incomplete skulls and jaw fragments in 1859.
"It has taken 160 years since the discovery of skulls and jaw fragments at Lake Colungulac in Victoria to finally complete the skull puslesaw of this enigmatic and controversial humming bird and reveal how nature structured a super carnivore from its ancient herbivorous ancestors," said professor Wells.
The researchers have not determined whether the marquee was a co-operative hunter or simply an opportunist, but the fact that more adults and young people were found in caves indicate that they were working in social groups.
They think that the pumice owl was also a snail or sailboat of greater variety.
Co-author and palaeontologist spokeswoman Aaron Camens compared the tail to that of other Australian marsupials.
"Our analysis of the tail indicates that it was kept in the air and that it was used in a way that differs from all living pants," he said.
The study "First of all, look at the complete skeleton of Thylacoleo, Australia's extinct" humpback ", is freely available at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208020