Giant Short-faced Kangaroo

Anne Musser

Australian Museum

Australian Museum
Sydney, Australia

Giant Short-faced Kangaroo, Procoptodon goliah

Where did they live?
According to the fossil record, the Giant Short-faced Kangaroo, from the Pleistocene epoch, was found in all states of Australia except Tasmania.

What was their habitat?
Fossils of these kangaroos have been found in a variety of habitats, mainly harsh, semi-arid areas of New South Wales and South Australia where the environment was treeless and windy. But in western NSW in cooler, wetter sclerophyll forests, their fossils have also appeared, suggesting their adaptability and wide distribution.

What’s special about them?
The Giant Short-faced Kangaroo was the largest known kangaroo ever to have lived. Some say they were well over two metres tall and weighed in at over 200 kilograms. There is some evidence that, rather than hop, this monster preferred to walk on two feet. In New South Wales, Aboriginal people still recount stories of a large, long-armed, aggressive kangaroo that would attack people.

What did they eat?
The complex teeth of the Giant Short-faced Kangaroo tell us that it was a browser (leaf-eater) rather than a grazer (grass-eater), able to handle the tough leaves and stems typical of arid and semi-arid environments. It would have used its long front limbs to grasp branches and bring them close for feeding. Because their teeth were so tough they had choice in what they ate.

How did they reproduce?
Like all marsupials, they would have had tiny, hairless young that developed to maturity in a pouch after birth.

What else do I need to know?
Fossil finds suggest that this huge marsupial was a very successful species until its decline and eventual extinction about 15,000 years ago. At twice or even three times the size of the Red Kangaroo we know today, the Giant Short-faced Kangaroo had an unusually short, flat face and forward-facing eyes. The fourth digit on each foot was greatly enlarged and each hand had two long, clawed fingers, both features useful for, among other things, dealing with predators.

Where do they fit in the tree of life?
Species: goliah
Genus: Procoptodon
Subfamily: Sthenurinae
Family: Macropodidae
Order: Diprotodontia
Magnorder: Australidelphia
Cohort: Marsupialia
Infralegion: Theria
Sublegion: Boreosphenida
Division: Theriiformes
Superdivision: Theriimorpha
Infraclass: Holotheria
Subclass: Mammaliaformes
Class: Mammalia
Series: Amniota
Superclass: Tetrapoda
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Phylum: Chordata
Kingdom: Animalia

What is their conservation status?
The Giant Short-faced Kangaroo is extinct.

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  • Title: Giant Short-faced Kangaroo
  • Creator: Anne Musser
  • Publisher: Australian Museum