New 'Marsupi-carnivore' Fossil Found in Australia

Archaeologists have unearthed remains of a weird prehistoric small carnivore

  The long-nose bandicoot eats mainly insects and larvae
Remains of a prehistoric carnivore were discovered recently in Australian scientists' favorite digging area, an ancient former rainforest where specimens over 25 million years have been found. This is a very exciting discovery according to paleontologist Henk Godthelp of the University of New South Wales, as it is the first time this animal has been seen in Australia.

Scientists presume that this is a kind of bandicoot or some sort of marsupial, possibly related to native cats. It seems that its head resembles a badger head and it had fangs almost half as long as its skull. “It's an animal we don't think we've seen before up at Riversleigh so it was quite a nice find for us.”, Godthelp said.

Most of the fossil is still attached to the rock and it will probably take archaeologists two or three weeks before it can be completely removed. Acid will be used to dissolve the rock containing the skull and scientists hope to find the rest of the body too. “As we're extracting the bones from the rock, we harden them up to make sure they're preserved properly,” the paleontologist says.

This area in north-western Queensland was once an prehistoric rainforest and is now a very prolific land for finding fossils and animal remains, as creatures were fossilized in lime-rich pools. This complex of fossil bearing sites is situated about 200 km north of Mount Isa and it extends on an area of over 40 sq km. It has a very high concentration of calcium carbonate in the ground water, which gives fossils an exceptional quality.

Among the most unusual findings from this place, in the last 35 years, are carnivorous kangaroos, gigantic flightless birds, ancient platypus species, tree-dwelling crocodiles and primitive koalas and wombats. Godthelp says that many uncovered species have “never been seen anywhere else in Australia let alone the world” and adds that the new found skull can fit in the palm of your hand.

In the World Heritage site at Riversleigh lies one of the richest mammal deposits from the Oligo-Miocene era in the world.

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By    9 Jul 2010, 13:34 GMT