Flesh Eating Koalas Once Lived in Australia – They Weren’t Just Legends!

by Sankalan Baidya
Flesh eating koalas

Have you been to Australia? If yes, you might have come across the legendary tales of blood-thirsty and flesh eating koalas. It is very likely that you laughed away the tales since all you can think of when picturing a koala is a cute and cuddle animal eating eucalyptus leaves. When we heard the legendary tales, we laughed too!

Unfortunately, it turns out that these creatures actually existed! Not just that! They just didn’t exist. They were the largest of flesh eating marsupials to have ever roamed the lands of this planet. And guess what? They were really frightening.

So, what confirmed the existence of flesh eating koalas in Australia?

This claim comes from the discovery of claw marks inside caves in Australia. It was previously thought that these creatures, if they even existed, were more of melons and crocodile egg lovers. From Adelaide’s Flinders University, a group of paleoecologists have clearly debunked this this theory based on the recent claw marks findings.

Flesh eating koalas - claw marks in tight entrance cave

Claw marks of Thyacoleo carnifex found in Tight Entrance Cave, Australia

These scientists examined the walls of soft rocks in Tight Entrance Cave. These claws were at a height of 9 feet above ground. They also uncovered some remains in the caves, which, together with the claw marks, reveal that the flesh eating koalas (known as Thyacoleo carnifex or T. carnifex) were very capable climbers. Apart from that, they mastered the art of ripping off flesh from their victims’ bodies and never chewed on the bones. So, they were kind of flesh specialists and they absolutely hated vegetarian diets as seen in modern day koalas.

In 2008, biologist Stephen Wu of University of New South Wales conducted a study on T. carnifex and made the following statement:

My results suggest that the marsupial lion employed a unique killing technique. It used its massive carnissial cheekteeth to effect major trauma and a rapid kill. Unlike any living mammalian carnivore, the marsupial’s carnassials were not only butchery tools but also active components of the killing process.

New studies from the freshly discovered claw marks actually support the statement of Stephen Wu.

When and where did the flesh eating koalas live?

Flesh eating koalas

According to experts, these flesh eating koalas (aka the marsupial lions) lived some 50,000 years ago – that’s the Pleistocene period. The Thyacoleo carnifex were cave dwellers. They lived in caves and even raised their kids in caves. They were distant relatives of modern day koalas and primarily survived by hunting aboriginal humans and giant kangaroos. Despite their weird name of marsupial lions, they were nowhere even close to the lions but they were at least as big as modern day tigers. They were extremely vicious and they held and still hold (despite extinction) the record of having strongest bite force among any land mammals that every live or are alive.

Since they were flesh specialists, they were blessed with some really dangerous incisors in both their upper and lower jaws that they used for stabbing their victims. Once their victims died, they used their premolars as shearing blades.

Not just that. They were extremely good climbers and this ability came from their padded toes present on both their forelimbs and hind limbs – both of which were really strong. Since teeth weren’t enough for efficiently ripping off the flesh of their victims, they were also blessed with retractable claws that also aided them in climbing. They used to stalk and then ambush their prey. According to experts, changes in climatic conditions wreaked havoc on them and pushed them to extinction.


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