Study analyzes palorchestides, an extinct giant marsupial that lived in Australia

A new study published in PLOS ONE, by researchers at Monash University, Australia, focused on marsupial palorchestides. It is an extinct group of Australian megafauna that has lived for most of the last 25 million years, mostly in eastern Australia.

They had large sizes, skulls similar to tapirs and large claws. The study focused in particular on the morphology of the limbs. After examining 60 fossils of marsupials of various ages, the researchers confirmed that the marsupials have undergone several evolutionary changes over millions of years.

The last specimens lived could have weighed more than 500 pounds. This weight was held up by very muscular limbs, especially the anterior ones, which, among other things, had also adapted to scrape leaves and branches. The forelimbs, in fact, had elbow joints fixed at an angle of about 100°: in this way, the legs, permanently bent, served as tools for collecting food.

“This study allowed us for the first time to appreciate how enormous these mega-marsupial palorquestids were, also providing the first complete view of a strange anatomy of the limbs unprecedented in the world of mammals. This research reveals even more the diversity of the great unique marsupials that once roamed Australia,” the authors of the study state in the press release.