As if many of us needed another animal-based reason to never visit there, a new study has announced the discovery of a new hypercarnivorous killing machine native to Australia. The animal, Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum, is believed to have weighed 44-55 lb (20-25 kg) and possessed razor-sharp teeth capable of taking down prey much larger than it. The creature’s closest known living relative today is the Tasmanian devil, another terrifying carnivorous marsupial that is undoubtedly the closest living embodiment of a Pokémon.
Paleontologists with the University of New South Wales were digging near Australia’s famous fossil-rich Riversleigh World Heritage Site in northwestern Queensland when they discovered a specimen of the animal’s unique molar. While the animal is only known by the single fossilized tooth, the tooth is unique enough in its physiology for scientists to extrapolate many characteristics of the animal:
Although known only from a lower molar, it exhibits a plethora of carnivorous adaptations including a hypertrophied protoconid, tiny metaconid and a battery of vertical carnassial blades between most of the major cusps, most of which incorporate carnassial notches to immobilise materials being sheared.
Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum is classified as a hypercarnivore, due to the fact that more than 70% of its diet is believed to have been composed of animal flesh. According to Karen Black, one of the co-authors of the research, the finding could help fill in some gaps about prehistoric Australia:
The small to medium-sized mammals from the New Riversleigh deposits will reveal a great deal about how Australia’s inland environments and animals changed between 12 and 5 million years ago – a critical time when increasing dryness ultimately led to the Ice Ages of the Pleistocene.
The types of sediment deposits found among the fossils have given researchers new data about how climate change affected the region in the prehistoric past. It’s believed that the Riversleigh area experienced a sudden drying out around 5 million years ago, causing radical adaptations the plant and animal life there. Other teeth found in the area have been worn more than known specimens of the same species, suggesting the animals living there had to make sudden changes to their diets or that there could have been more sand or dust in the area than usual.