Extinct creature astonishes scientists

Extinct creature astonishes scientists

The incredible discovery in Australia sheds new light on how our planet looked 15 million years ago.

Scientists have just made an amazing discovery in Australia of a previously unknown marsupial.

Malleodectes mirabilis, a bizarre marsupial that lived 15 million years ago and lived off snails, had powerful teeth that enabled it to crack open shells in the forests of modern day northwestern Queensland, according to a University of New South Wales statement.

This creature is now extinct, but 15 million years ago it roamed the region. This particular fossil was found in a limestone cave deposit along with many other fossils of critters that were unlucky enough to fall to their deaths in the pit.

Scientists have actually found malleodectids teeth before, but this is the best-preserved, and largest, fossil that they have ever found, and certainly sheds light onto what the region looked like those many eons ago.

Marsupials are a special type of creature, making Australia as unique it is. They are characterized by giving birth to mostly undeveloped young, which reside in a pouch after birth until they are old enough to venture out on their own. About 70 percent of the 334 marsupial species are in Australia and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 or so found in the Americas, primarily in South America. The only marsupial in the United States is the possum.

“Isolated teeth and partial dentitions of this unusual group, known as malleodectids, had been unearthed over the years at Riversleigh, where Professor Archer and his colleagues have excavated for almost four decades. But the profoundly different nature of the marsupials was not realised until a well-preserved portion of the skull of a juvenile was found in a 15 million year old Middle Miocene cave deposit at Riversleigh,” the statement reads. “This juvenile specimen was only recently extracted from its limestone casing, using an acid bath at UNSW, which made it available for study with modern techniques including micro-computed tomography. The young animal still had its baby teeth, and was teething, with adult teeth that had been about to erupt when it was alive still embedded in its jaw.”



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