7 Jul 2011

Skeleton of giant wombat found

6:03 am on 7 July 2011

Scientists in Australia have found the skeleton of a giant wombat which lived some two million years ago.

The bones of the animal, which must have weighed about three tonnes, were found on a farm in north-eastern Australia.

The BBC reports it is the first time a complete skeleton of a Diprotodon optatum has been uncovered.

The animal was widespread across Australia about 50,000 years ago.

Professor Mike Archer of the University of New South Wales, described the discovery as extraordinary.

''We found the most gigantic marsupial ever known,'' he told the BBC.

''These were very huge animals but with pouches. If one tried to visualise what this thing looked like, you'd have to sort of think of a gigantic wombat on steroids.''

The remains were unearthed at Floraville Station in northern Queensland - a region that has attracted scientists and fossil hunters for decades.

The specimen will be taken to the Riversleigh fossil centre, which already holds the remains of a tree-dwelling crocodile, a carnivorous rat kangaroo and a marsupial lion.