Peter Schouten Mukupirna nambensis had very soft teeth compared to modern wombats, as grasslands in Australia hadn’t developed yet — and they fed on softer plants.
About 10 years ago, paleontologist Julien Louys accidentally discovered the fossils of a giant extinct wombat cousin. Left behind in the collection drawers of New York’s American Natural History Museum, they had been collecting dust since 1973.
According to ABC Australia, they’ve now finally gotten a closer look. Published in the journal of Scientific Reports, the study identifies the fossils as a 25-million-year-old animal dubbed Mukupirna nambensis. However, when he first discovered the large unidentified fossil, Luoys was thoroughly perplexed.
“The overwhelming sense I had was confusion,” said Louys. “Because I could see it was something unique and important, but I couldn’t place it.”
Louys couldn’t place the remains as they belonged to a yet unidentified member of the Vombatiformes order, which include wombats and koalas. Not only did his research yield the discovery of an ancient animal — but it filled in a long-missing link in the Vombatiformes family.