By David Sibenaler | August 25, 2015
AN 8 million-year-old marsupial lion bone has been found at an ancient fossil bed in Central Australia.
The site at Alcoota Scientific Reserve will be visited by researchers next month attending the 15th Conference of Australasian Vertebrate Evolution, Palaeontology and Systematics (CAVEPS) in Alice Springs.
The Pleistocene Marsupial Lion is the largest meat-eating mammal to have lived in Australia, and one of the largest marsupial carnivores the world has ever seen.
It would have hunted animals – including the giant Diprotodon – in the forests, woodlands, shrub lands and river valleys, as well as around waterholes.
NT Museums Senior Curator of Earth Sciences, Adam Yates, said Alcoota was one of the most significant fossil sites in the world.
“This year we found a complete upper arm bone, which is probably the best single bone of the marsupial lion which has ever been found,” Dr Yates said.
“This particular lion species is unique to Alcoota and can’t be found anywhere else. We (also) possibly found a new species of dwarf emu.”
The marsupial lion bone was found during a dig last month.
Dr Yates said the dwarf emu bones found at Alcoota suggested the animal was a lot more ancient and primitive than other emu fossils found in other parts of the country.
“We can’t be certain of the exact date,” he said.
“But we can be very sure it belongs to a period known as the late Miocene, so our best guess is in the vicinity of eight million years old.”
During that period, Central Australia was fertile and forested, with an abundance of water.
The biennial meeting of palaeontologists and evolutionary biologists will see 55 people from Australia and abroad converge to discuss the latest research in their field.
The conference will be held from September 1-5.