Giant Kangaroos and other Mega fauna

10th August 2022 | Life on Earth
Giant kangaroos and other mega fauna
Procoptodon goliah – Image Courtesy of Australian Museum


This month, let’s have a look into the past – or a look down the spiral of antipodean time. Let’s have a look at giant kangaroos and other mega fauna.

When people first arrived in the north of Australia [as it is called now], they would have found the land inhabited by massive animals including goannas six metres long and kangaroos twice as tall as a human. These giants roamed the Australian tropics between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago, and were the largest land animals to live in Australia since the time of the dinosaurs.

The mammals were equally bizarre, including a giant bucktoothed wombat, a strange “bear-sloth” marsupial, and enormous kangaroos and wallabies.

Giant Kangaroos

Procoptodon physiology was likely similar to that of the contemporary kangaroos. However, Procoptodon goliah was characterised by its large size. These short-faced kangaroos included species that were more than three times the size of the largest kangaroos alive today.

The largest, P. goliah, was 2.7 m tall and weighed up to 240 kg. These animals lived alongside modern species of kangaroos and fed on a diet of leaves from trees and shrubs. This extinct giant had a large, koala-like head with eyes that were more forward facing than those of living kangaroos. Their hands possessed long, central fingers, resembling grappling hooks, instead of normal paws.

Procoptodon were large and short-faced, distinguishable by their flat faces and forward-pointing eyes. On each foot, they had a single large toe or claw. They moved quickly through the open forests and plains, where they sought grass and leaves to eat. Their front paws had two extra-long fingers with large claws that may have been used to grab branches, bringing leaves within eating distance.

However, a yet-to-be named giant kangaroo is the largest ever found. With an estimated mass of 274 kg, it beats the previous contender described above. See SCIENCE ALERT.

Marsupial Lions

Pound for pound, Thylacoleo carnifex had the strongest bite of any mammal species, living or extinct. Weighing 101 kg (223 lb), it had a bite comparable to that of a 250 kg African lion, and research suggests that this animal could hunt and take prey much larger than itself.

The Thylacoleo carnifex is believed to have evolved from a plant eating species of wombat or possum. It is 1.5m long (head-tail) and 75cm tall at the shoulder. The limb proportions of Thylacoleo carnifex suggest that it was cursorial (adapted for running), but not all that fast. It also possessed a pseudo-opposable thumb which suggests it may have been partly scansorial (adapted for climbing).

Larger animals that were likely prey include Diprotodon [large marsupials] and the giant kangaroos. It does seem improbable that Thylacoleo could achieve as high a bite force as a modern-day lion. However, this may be possible if you take into consideration the size of its brain and skull. Carnivores usually have rather large brains when compared to herbivorous marsupials, which lessens the amount of bone that can be devoted to enhancing bite force.

Beneath the Nullarbor Plain

Somewhere in a secret location beneath the Nullarbor Plain, scientists have discovered exciting new fossils from a bygone age. Check out the Nullarbor Plain in this previous blog:


Check out this great video here for more information: CAVE VIDEO

Also the Western Australian Museum  site here: MUSEUM SITE


References and further reading

The Conversation

Fossil hunters

Australian museum

Wikipedia Procoptodon



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