Ancient Australian Marsupial Ate Snails Whole

Posted on May 30, 2016

Malleodectes mirabilis snail eating marsupial

The fossils of an ancient Australian marsupial have been discovered in northwestern Queensland. The marsupial ate snails whole. It had a unique massive shell-cracking premolar tooth that enabled it to consume snails shell and all.

The marsupial lived about 15 million years ago. The fossils were discovered by a by a UNSW Australia-led team of researchers. The fossils were found at the Riversleigh World Heritage fossil deposits, which have produced many previously unknown animals.

Mike Archer, a UNSW Professor and study leader, says in a statement, "Malleodectes mirabilis was a bizarre mammal, as strange in its own way as a koala or kangaroo. Uniquely among mammals, it appears to have had an insatiable appetite for escargot-snails in the whole shell. Its most striking feature was a huge, extremely powerful, hammer-like premolar that would have been able to crack and then crush the strongest snail shells in the forest."

A research paper on the discovery was published here in the journal Scientific Reports.

Image: Peter Schouten