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Temporal range: Late Oligocene – Late Pleistocene
Restoration of Diprotodon
Fossil of Zygomaturus
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Diprotodontia
Superfamily: Diprotodontoidea
Family: Diprotodontidae
Gill, 1872
Subfamilies & genera

See text

Diprotodontidae is an extinct family of large herbivorous marsupials, endemic to Australia and New Guinea during the Oligocene through Pleistocene periods from 28.4 million to 40,000 years ago.[1]



The family primarily consisted of large quadrupedal terrestrial browsers, notably including the largest marsupial that ever lived, the rhino-sized Diprotodon.[2] Nimbadon, which is often considered a basal diprotodontid, was arboreal.[3] Diprotodontids were plantigrade (foot and toes flat relative to the ground). In most diprotodontids, the forelimbs were not specialised and were capable of being used for functions other than movement. Some later diprotodontids from the Pliocene onwards like Ambulator and Diprotodon developed elephant-like forelimbs specialised for walking with modified wristbones which functioned as a heel, along with the development of footpads, which means that the digits probably did not contact the ground, as evidenced by the lack of toes on footprints of Diprotodon.[4][5] In at least some representatives of the clade, the inside of the skull was lightened by large interior sinus spaces.[6]



At least some diprotodontids such as Diprotodon are thought to have lived in herds.[7]



Diprotodontids are members of the Vombatomorphia, meaning that their closest living relatives are wombats, though they are more closed related to Palorchestidae, with both families placed in the Diprotodontoidea.[8] Traditionally the family is divided into two subfamilies, Diprotodontinae and Zygomaturinae. The taxonomy of diprotodontids is in need of revision, as historically many diprotodontids were diagnosed solely on tooth morphology, however the morphology of the premolar teeth of diprotodontid species is highly variable between individuals, with the molar morphology often very similar in species that differ greatly in skeletal anatomy, making the taxonomic utility of morphological characters related to teeth questionable.[5]

List of genera


Evolutionary history


The group first appeared during the Late Oligocene, with representatives that were mostly sheep-sized, and substantially diversified beginning during the Late Miocene, reaching an apex of diversity during the Pliocene with seven genera, likely due to the increase of open forested landscapes. The last known members of the group including Diprotodon and Zygomaturus from mainland Australia, and Hulitherium and Maokopia from New Guinea became extinct during the Late Pleistocene around 40,000 years ago as part of the Late Pleistocene megafauna extinctions, following the arrival of humans to Australia-New Guinea.[9]


  1. ^ "Family - Diprotodontidae Gill 1872 (diprotodont marsupial)". PaleoBiology Database. Archived from the original on 2015-04-03.
  2. ^ Price, Gilbert J.; Ferguson, Kyle J.; Webb, Gregory E.; Feng, Yue-xing; Higgins, Pennilyn; Nguyen, Ai Duc; Zhao, Jian-xin; Joannes-Boyau, Renaud; Louys, Julien (2017-09-27). "Seasonal migration of marsupial megafauna in Pleistocene Sahul (Australia–New Guinea)". Proc. R. Soc. B. 284 (1863): 20170785. doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.0785. ISSN 0962-8452. PMC 5627191. PMID 28954903.
  3. ^ Black, Karen H.; Camens, Aaron B.; Archer, Michael; Hand, Suzanne J. (2012-11-21). Evans, Alistair Robert (ed.). "Herds Overhead: Nimbadon lavarackorum (Diprotodontidae), Heavyweight Marsupial Herbivores in the Miocene Forests of Australia". PLOS ONE. 7 (11): e48213. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...748213B. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048213. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3504027. PMID 23185250.
  4. ^ Camens, Aaron; Prideaux, Gavin; Zoelen, Jacob van (2023-05-30). "Newly described enormous marsupial wandered great distances across Australia 3.5 million years ago". The Conversation. Retrieved 2023-05-31.
  5. ^ a b van Zoelen, Jacob D.; Camens, Aaron B.; Worthy, Trevor H.; Prideaux, Gavin J. (May 2023). "Description of the Pliocene marsupial Ambulator keanei gen. nov. (Marsupialia: Diprotodontidae) from inland Australia and its locomotory adaptations". Royal Society Open Science. 10 (5). Bibcode:2023RSOS...1030211V. doi:10.1098/rsos.230211. ISSN 2054-5703. PMC 10230189. PMID 37266037.
  6. ^ Sharp, Alana C. (2016). "A quantitative comparative analysis of the size of the frontoparietal sinuses and brain in vombatiform marsupials". Memoirs of Museum Victoria. 74: 331–342. doi:10.24199/j.mmv.2016.74.23. ISSN 1447-2546.
  7. ^ Price, Gilbert J. (June 2008). "Taxonomy and palaeobiology of the largest-ever marsupial, Diprotodon Owen, 1838 (Diprotodontidae, Marsupialia)". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 153 (2): 369–397. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2008.00387.x. ISSN 0024-4082.
  8. ^ Beck, Robin M. D.; Louys, Julien; Brewer, Philippa; Archer, Michael; Black, Karen H.; Tedford, Richard H. (2020-06-25). "A new family of diprotodontian marsupials from the latest Oligocene of Australia and the evolution of wombats, koalas, and their relatives (Vombatiformes)". Scientific Reports. 10 (1): 9741. Bibcode:2020NatSR..10.9741B. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-66425-8. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 7316786. PMID 32587406.
  9. ^ Black, K. H.; Archer, M.; Hand, S. J.; Godthelp, H. (2012). "The Rise of Australian Marsupials: A Synopsis of Biostratigraphic, Phylogenetic, Palaeoecologic and Palaeobiogeographic Understanding". In Talent, J. A. (ed.). Earth and life: global biodiversity, extinction intervals and biogeographic perturbations through time. Springer Verlag. pp. 1040, 1047. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-3428-1_35. ISBN 978-90-481-3427-4.
  • Vertebrate Palaeontology by Michael J. Benton (page 314)
  • Wildlife of Gondwana: Dinosaurs and Other Vertebrates from the Ancient Supercontinent (Life of the Past) by Pat Vickers Rich, Thomas Hewitt Rich, Francesco Coffa, and Steven Morton
  • Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea: One Hundred Million Years of Evolution by John A. Long, Michael Archer, Timothy Flannery, and Suzanne Hand (page 77)