Saturday, 23 June 2012

Giant Marsupial Graveyard Unearthed Down Under

A treasure trove of giant marsupial fossils — including one named Kenny — has been uncovered in Australia. The bones will help researchers better understand these ancient pouched mammals, and figure out why they went extinct.

These giant marsupials of the genus Diprotodon lived in what is now Australia from about 1.6 million years ago up until about 25,000 to 50,000 years ago. They roamed the continent eating vegetation, but died out when large numbers of humans moved into the area. Being such enormous creatures — standing at 13 feet (4 meters) and weighing up to 6,100 pounds (2,800 kilograms) —Diprotodon likely had to scarf down as much as 330 pounds (150 kg) of vegetation daily, research has found.

The researchers uncovered the remains of about 50 Diprotodon individuals at BHP Billiton Mitsui Coal's South Walker Creek mine site in Queensland where researchers have been excavating since 2009. The fossils date back 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, the researchers told the BBC.

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