Australians discover surely the largest wombat - the size of an elephant - to ever walk the Earth (...and promptly call it 'Shirley')
- Giant creature strolled Earth 2.5million years ago - and may offer clues to human involvement in their extinction
By Eddie Wrenn
PUBLISHED: 11:59 EST, 14 September 2012 | UPDATED: 12:54 EST, 14 September 2012
At first glance, it just looks like the fossil of a typical wombat.
But this colossal marsupial, found in the Northern Territory of Australia, is something quite different, for these are the remains of a wombat which strolled the Earth 2.5million years - and it was the size of an elephant.
The rare diprotodon fossil is believed to show the largest marsupial ever to have lived.
Discoveries: Bones found at the site includes a precursor to Diprotodon marsupial (above), and the mammoth Diprotodon fossil discovered (below) in the Northern Territory, Australia, in August
The creature, weighing three tonnes, was found on a cattle station in the Northwest Territories of Australia.
True to form, the Aussie team promptly named the remains 'Shirley'.
The skeleton is believed to be missing the skull, but includes the ribs, hips, spinal column and back legs.
A cattle station land manager discovered the fossil last month and reported it to the Museum of Central Australia.
The bones may help solve some of the mysteries of the creatures disappearance -in particular whether these creatures died out naturally - or if they were hunted to extinction by early humans.
Giant marsupial: Cute when small... But more like Jurassic Park when the creature in question is the size of an elephant
Territory Museum earth sciences curator Adam Yates said: 'We are all sort of crossing our fingers and hoping that this may be the site that definitely shows human-megafaunal interaction, but I can't say that yet.
'There might be such things as cut marks or teeth marks underneath but we don't know that yet.
'It is all very exciting because a Diprotodon has not been found in the Northern Territory before.
'Any ice-age site from the tropical north of Australia is a rarity, there are very, very few such sites.
'I believe the coincidental arrival of humans at about that time or just before that time is significant.'
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