Extinct Marsupial Lion Claws Crawls Out Of The Dark

First Posted: Feb 17, 2016 01:50 PM EST

Australia's mighty marsupial lion became extinct about 40,000 years ago, however they have left thousands of claw marks on the surfaces of a limestone cave in southwestern Australia, which is shedding new light on one of the Aussies' most feared meat-eating mammals. In the most recent study, paleontologists at Flinders University analyzed these markings, which indicated that the beast was an excellent climber and their young were reared in caves.

The average marsupial lion, also known as "Thylacoleo carnifex," weighed up to 100 kg and used its powerful jaws and claws to pounce into its prey. "T. carnifex" became extinct around 40,000 years ago just after humans began arriving in the territory.

The researchers examined the claw-marks, which enabled them to test previous ideas about the animal, which were based on skeletal analyses. Thousands of claw marks were analyzed from the Tight Entrance Cave along with a Pleistocene bone. The team found that the largest scratch marks were created by adult "T. carnifex," while the smaller marks were made by juveniles. Even though the scratches share a similar pattern, they do not match the claw marks from other known cave dwellers.

The researchers claimed that marsupial lions gave birth to extremely underdeveloped cubs and caves would have kept them safe against other carnivores and even turbulent weather conditions. The team found that the claw marks in the Tight Entrance Cave were mostly located on very steep surfaces up to three metres from the cave floor, which was probably the quickest route to the exit hole in the cave roof.

"They could have chosen longer routes to the exit with gentler slopes, but the distribution of claw marks shows that, habitually, they did not," Sam Arman, lead author of the study, said in a news release. "Clearly they were excellent climbers and would easily have been able to climb trees."

The findings of this study were published in Scientific Reports.

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