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Diprotodon
Diprotodon
A restoration of a Diprotodon.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Marsupialia
Family Diprotodontidae
Conservation Status
EXSpecies
Extinct
Diprotodon was a large marsupial related to wombats that lived in Australia during the Ice Age. It is the largest known marsupial to have ever lived. Along with many other members of a group of species collectively known as the "Australian megafauna", it existed from approximately 1.6 million years ago until extinction some 46,000 years ago.

Appearance

Diprotodon superficially resembled a gigantic wombat or a pouched rhinoceros without a horn. Its feet turned inwards like a wombat’s, giving it a pigeon-toed appearance. It had strong claws on the front feet and its pouch opening faced backwards. Footprints of its feet have been found showing a covering of hair which indicates it had a coat similar to a modern wombat.

Behavior

Recent research compared the variation between all of the described Diprotodon species with the variation in one of Australia’s largest living marsupials, the eastern grey kangaroo, and found the range was comparable, with a near continent-wide distribution. This left only two possible Diprotodon species differing only in size with the smaller being around half the size of the larger. According to Gause’s "competitive exclusion principle" no two species with identical ecological requirements can coexist in a stable environment.

However, both the small and large diprotodonts coexisted throughout the Pleistocene and the size difference is similar to other sexually dimorphic living marsupials. Further evidence is the battle damage common in competing males found on the larger specimens but absent from the smaller. Dental morphology also supports sexual dimorphism, with highly sexually dimorphic marsupials, such as the grey kangaroo, having different tooth sizes between males and females, but both sexes having the same dental morphology. An identical dental morphology occurs in the large and small Diprotodon.[ The taxonomic implication is that Owen’s original Diprotodon optatum is the only valid species.

Distribution

They inhabited open forest, woodlands, and grasslands, possibly staying close to water and their food sources.

Diet

According to many studies, Diprotodon was eating many types of plants such as leaves, shrubs, and some grasses.

Lifespan

Currently, the lifespan of a Diprotodon is unknown, but that will likely change.

Gallery

  • Diprotodon as shown in "Monsters We Met".

Facts

  • The closest surviving relatives of Diprotodon are the wombats and the koala. It is suggested that diprotodonts may have been an inspiration for the legends of the bunyip, as some Aboriginal tribes identify Diprotodon bones as those of "bunyips".
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