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Giant Wombat (Diprotodon optatum)
A plodding colossus, D. optatum, the largest known marsupial, grew to rhinoceros size. The biggest ones reached over six feet tall at the shoulder, their furry, pillar-like legs supporting three tons of weight. Diprotodon occupied a niche similar to the African elephant, browsing on shrubs and collecting at water holes. Its SUV size and lack of agility would have made it a tempting target for marsupial lions and human hunters.
Marsupial Lion (Thylacoleo carnifex)
Unrivalled predator, leopard-size T. carnifex stalked open forest and shrubland in search of prey, which probably included newly arrived humans. The continent's largest mammalian carnivore, weighing up to 350 pounds and up to 30 inches tall at the shoulder, this hunter likely thrived as an ambush artist. Bursting from undergrowth, it could throttle much larger game, grasping its prey with dagger-sharp thumb claws and finishing it off with its large front teeth.
Stirton's Thunderbird (Dromornis stirtoni) and Marsupial Tapir (Palorchestes painei)
Perhaps the largest known bird, D. stirtoni never left the ground. Ten feet tall and weighing a thousand pounds, it belonged to a family of giant flightless birds, the dromornithids. Humans never saw Stirton's thunderbird; it lived about eight million years ago in the late Miocene, when Australia was drying out.
"Tree wreckers": that's how paleontologist Tim Flannery describes Palorchestes, cow-size marsupials that used powerful limbs, a trunk-like nose, and a long giraffe-type tongue to strip bark and tear up roots. Scientists first mistook their teeth for those of giant kangaroos but wombats and koalas are their closest kin.
Giant Short-Faced Kangaroo (Procoptodon goliah)
No living kangaroo can do this: reach above its head and pull leaves off a tree. Long, clawed fingers and forelimbs that could extend upward like human arms allowed P. goliah, the largest kangaroo ever, to thrive as a browser in open forests. The seven-foot-tall marsupial with hooflike toes was one of the last of the megafauna to go extinct, overlapping with humans for thousands of years and likely inspiring Aboriginal tales about a long-limbed fighting roo.