Diprotodon (Greek for “two forward teeth”); pronounced die-PRO-toe-don, Plains of Australia, Pleistocene-Modern (2 million-10,000 years ago), About 12 feet long and two tons, ate plants.
Scientists have unearthed the biggest find yet of prehistoric “giant wombat” skeletons, revealing clues to the reasons for the species’ extinction.
The find, in Queensland, Australia, of about 50 Diprotodons – the largest marsupial that ever lived – has been called a “palaeontologists’ goldmine”.
The plant-eating giants, the size of a rhinoceros, had backward-facing pouches big enough to carry an adult human.
The fossils are believed to be between 100,000 and 200,000 years old.
Lead scientist Scott Hocknull, from the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, said: “When we did the initial survey I was just completely blown away by the concentrations of these fragments.
“It’s a palaeontologist’s goldmine where we can really see what these megafauna were doing, how they actually behaved, what their ecology was.
“With so many fossils it gives us a unique opportunity to see these animals in their environment, basically, so we can reconstruct it.”
The “mega-wombats” appeared to have been trapped in boggy conditions while taking refuge from dry conditions, Mr Hocknull added.
The pigeon-toed animals were widespread across Australia about 50,000 years ago, when the first indigenous people are believed to have lived, but they first appeared about 1.6 million years ago.
It is unclear how or why they became extinct, but it could have been due to hunting by humans or, more likely, a changing climate.
The giant wombat is not a myth.