Behaviour of the Pleistocene marsupial lion deduced from claw marks in a southwestern Australian cave

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Date
2016
Authors
Arman, Samuel D
Prideaux, Gavin John
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Publisher
Nature Publishing Group
Abstract
The marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, was the largest-ever marsupial carnivore, and is one of the most iconic extinct Australian vertebrates. With a highly-specialised dentition, powerful forelimbs and a robust build, its overall morphology is not approached by any other mammal. However, despite >150 years of attention, fundamental aspects of its biology remain unresolved. Here we analyse an assemblage of claw marks preserved on surfaces in a cave and deduce that they were generated by marsupial lions. The distribution and skewed size range of claw marks within the cave elucidate two key aspects of marsupial lion biology: they were excellent climbers and reared young in caves. Scrutiny of >10,000 co-located Pleistocene bones reveals few if any marsupial lion tooth marks, which dovetails with the morphology-based interpretation of the species as a flesh specialist.
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Citation
Arman, S. D. and Prideaux, G. J. Behaviour of the Pleistocene marsupial lion deduced from claw marks in a southwestern Australian cave. Sci. Rep. 6, 21372; doi: 10.1038/srep21372 (2016).