The pouched lion


Owen_thyacoleoskull Partial skull of Thylacoleo carnifex from a paper by Richard Owen

Australia is a land stripped of megafauna. The largest surviving kangaroo is a dwarf compared to the elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and hippos of Africa. Similarly, the largest living carnivorous marsupial, the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harisii), is a stunted furball when placed against the lions, tigers, hyenas and bears that frighten us in the old world. But, a quick look at the Devil’s lifestyle is enough to persuade us that perhaps this was not always the case. Tas is a scavenger by trade. Sniffing out carcasses and crunching bones. Who was producing the carcasses that allowed the Devil to fill the scavenging niche? The answer may lie with one of the most awesome carnivores to have ever lived: Thylacoleo carnifex, the marsupial lion.

Make no mistake, Thylacoleo is a mysterious beast. When fossils of the animal were first…

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