|A newly described ancient marsupial is a distant relative of modern-day Tasmanian devils.|
The animal, weighing 20 to 25 kilograms (44 to 55 pounds) and named Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum, is a distant and bigger cousin of Australia's largest living flesh-eating marsupial -- the Tasmanian Devil.
|An illustration shows the size comparison of Australian marsupials including new extinct species of carnivorous marsupial, Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum, from New Riversleigh fossil site in Queensland.|
"W. tomnpatrichorum had very powerful teeth capable of killing and slicing up the largest animals of its day," said University of New South Wales professor Mike Archer, the lead author of a study into the find published in the Memoirs of Museum Victoria.
The late Miocene period between 12 and five million years ago, when Australia began to dry out and megafauna began to evolve, is one of the least understood in the vast continent's past, he added.
Fossils of land animals from this time are extremely rare.
"Fortunately, in 2012, we discovered a whole new fossil field that lies beyond the internationally famous Riversleigh World Heritage Area fossil deposits in northwestern Queensland," said Archer.
With a grant from the National Geographic Society, Archer and his colleagues began to explore the "New Riversleigh" site in 2013 and the species' highly distinctive molar was one of the first finds.
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