Australian scientists have uncovered the skeletons of more than four dozen “giant wombats,” extinct creatures that are believed to have been the largest marsupials ever to roam the Earth.
The plant-eating giants grew to the size of a rhinoceros and had backward-facing pouches big enough to carry an adult human, the report added.
“When we did the initial survey I was just completely blown away by the concentrations of these fragments,” said lead scientist Scott Hocknull, from the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.
“It’s a paleontologists’ goldmine where we can really see what these megafauna were doing, how they actually behaved, what their ecology was,” he added. “With so many fossils it gives us a unique opportunity to see these animals in their environment, basically, so we can reconstruct it.”
Diprotodons were part of a group of unusual species collectively called the “Australian megafauna.” They existed from approximately 1.6 million years ago until extinction around 46,000 years ago.
The closest surviving relatives of diprotodon are the modern wombats, which grow to about 40 inches, and the koala.
The “mega-wombats” appeared to have been trapped in boggy conditions while taking refuge from dry conditions, Hocknull said.
The remote desert site contains one huge specimen, nicknamed “Kenny,” which is one of the best-preserved and biggest examples ever discovered. Its jawbone alone is 28 inches long, according to the BBC.
The site is also home to an array of other prehistoric species, including the teeth of a 20-foot lizard called megalania and the teeth and bony back-plates of an enormous prehistoric crocodile.
“We’re almost certain that most of these carcasses of diprotodon have been torn apart by both the crocodiles and the lizards, because we’ve found shed teeth within their skeletons from both animals,” Hocknull said.
The diprotodon inhabited forests, open woodland and scrub.