Named By: Richard Owen - 1873.
Classification: Chordata, Mammalia, Marsupiala, Diprotodontia, Palorchestidae.
Species: P. azael (type), P. anulus, P. painei, P. parvus, P. pickeringi, P. selestiae.
Size: About 2.5 meters long.
Known locations: Australia, New South Wales. Queensland, Victoria - Nelson Bay Formation.
Time period: Tortonian of the Miocene through to the Zanclean of the Pliocene.
Fossil representation: Remains of several individuals, though possibly more fossils waiting to be described.
was a large and probably heavy diprotodont, a kind of large
quadrupedal herbivore that as a group had a distribution exclusive to
ancient Australia. With this appearance in mind, it seems odd that
this creature should be given a name that means ‘ancient leaper’,
but this is easily enough explained by the simple fact that when this
genus was first named by Richard Owen in 1873, he only had a
fragmentary jaw to go on. Owen believed that this jaw was actually
from an ancient kangaroo, and hence the name Palorchestes
to the genus.
Palorchestes is noted for two things in particular, the first being the large and powerful forelimbs which have very large and robust claws on the end. These are believed to have been used to pull down branches so that Palorchestes could feed upon foliage that otherwise would have been beyond reach. Ecologically this would have meant that Palorchestes would have had a similar niche to the large ground sloths of North and South America.
Second is that the skull of Palorchestes is formed so that it could have supported a short proboscis (trunk). Combined with a long tongue, as evidenced by a long lower jaw symphysis, this would have allowed Palorchestes even more flexibility and reach when feeding.
- On the Fossil Mammals of Australia. Part IX. Family Macropodidae; Genera Macropus, Pachysiagon, Leptosiagon, Procoptodon, and Palorchestes, Richard Owen - 1874.
- A new species of Palorchestidae (Marsupialia) from the Pliocene and early Pleistocene of Victoria, K. J. Piper - 2006.
- Palorchestes selestiae, a new species of palorchestid marsupial from the early Pliocene Bluff Downs Local Fauna, northeastern Queensland, B. S. Mackness - 2005.