Temporal range: Miocene–Pleistocene
Palorchestes ('ancient leaper or dancer') is an extinct genus of terrestrial herbivorous marsupial of the family Palorchestidae. The genus was endemic to Australia, living from the Late Miocene subepoch through the Pleistocene epoch (around 11.6 mya – 11,000 years ago), and thought to be in existence for approximately .
One species, Palorchestes azael, was almost as large as a horse, being around 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) in length with a weight of about 200 kilograms (440 lb), and had four powerful legs. The appearance of the animal's nasal bones suggests that it possessed a short proboscis, leading to the nickname of the "marsupial tapir". Since it is unrelated to tapirs, this similarity in nose shape is an example of convergent evolution. Palorchestes front legs bore large claws, similar to those of a koala, which it probably used to pull down leaves and strip the bark from trees.
Fossilized remains of Palorchestes azael have been found at the Naracoorte Caves fossil site in Australia.
The generic name was coined by Sir Richard Owen, who first found what he thought was the fragmentary jaw of a prehistoric kangaroo. It was not until more postcranial elements were found did anyone realize that Palorchestes was actually a different kind of diprotodontid, and not a kangaroo.
- Palmer, D., ed. (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 205. ISBN 1-84028-152-9.
- Long, J., Archer, M., Flannery, T., and Hand, S. J. (2002) Prehistoric Mammals of Australia and New Guinea: One Hundred Million Years of Evolution. Kensington: University of New South Wales. (pg 100)
- Barry Cox, Colin Harrison, R.J.G. Savage, and Brian Gardiner. (1999): The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures: A Visual Who's Who of Prehistoric Life. Simon & Schuster.
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