Palorchestes azael Owen, 1873

Marsupial 'tapir'



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Palorchestes azeal Owen, 1873 (orthographic error, used by Dawson, 1985:66 and others); Palorchestes rephaim Ramsay, 1885


Conservation Status


Last record: Late Pleistocene





Anatomy & Morphology

It weighed an estimated 500kg (Johnson & Prideaux, 2004:557; Johnson, 2006:19).


Biology & Ecology

It was a browser, with a diet possibly including bark (Johnson, 2006:19).



QMF33024 (Price & Hocknull, 2005)

MF452 (Dawson, 1985:66)

F7272 (holotype of P. rephaim) (Dawson, 1985:66)






Original scientific description:

Owen, R. [In Anon.]. (1873). On the fossil mammals of Australia. Family Macropodidae. Genera Macropus, Pachysiagon, Leptosiagon, Procoptodon, and Palorchestes. Part IX. Proc. R. Soc. 21: 386-387.


Other references:

Archer, Michael, Arena, Derrick A. et al. (2006). Current status of species-level representation in faunas from selected fossil localities in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, northwestern Queensland. Alcheringa, Special Issue 1: 1-17.

Archer, M. and Dawson, L. (1982). Revision of marsupial lions of the genus Thylacoleo Gervais (Thylacoleonidae, Marsupialia) and thylacoleonid evolution in the Late Cainozoic. pp. 477–494 in M. Archer (ed.), Carnivorous Marsupials.Surrey Beatty and Sons and the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Sydney.

Archer, M. et al. (2006). Current status of species-level representation in faunas from selected fossil localities in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, northwestern Queensland. Alcheringa Special Issue 1: 1-17.

Banks, M. R., Colhoun, E. A. and van de Geer, G. (1976). Late quaternary Palorchestes azael (Mammalia, Diprotodontidae) from northwestern Tasmania. Alcheringa 1(2): 159-166. [Abstract]

Bartholomai, A. (1962). A new species of Thylacoleo and notes on some caudal vertebrae of Palorchestes azeal. Queensl. Mus. Mem. 14: 33-40.

Bartholomai, Alan. (1977). The fossil vertebrate fauna from Pleistocene deposits at Cement Mills, Gore, Southeastern Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 18(1): 41-51.

Bartholomai, A. (1978). The rostrum in Palorchestes Owen (Marsupialia: Diprotodontidae). Results of the Ray E. Lemley Expeditions, Part 3. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 18: 145-149.

Chaloupka, G. (1984). From Paleoart to Casual Paintings. Monograph Series 1. Darwin: Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences. [possible depiction of [i]Palorchestes[/i] in rock art]

Chaloupka, G. (1993). Journey in Time: The World’s Longest Continuing Art Tradition. Chatswood, NSW: Reed. [possible depiction of Palorchestes in rock art]

Davis, A. C. and Archer, Michael. (1997). Palorchestes azael (Mammalia, Palorchestidae) from the late Pleistocene Terrace Site Local Fauna, Riversleigh, northwestern Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 41(2): 315-320.

Dawson, Lyndall. (1985). Marsupial fossils from Wellington Caves, New South Wales; the historic and scientific significance of the collections in the Australia Museum, Sydney. Records of the Australian Museum 37(2): 55-69.

De Vis, Charles W. (1883). Notes on a lower jaw of Palorchestes Azael. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 8: 221-224.

Dun, W. A. (1893). On palatal remains of Palorchestes azael, Owen, from the Wellington Caves bone-deposit. Records of the Geological Survey of New South Wales 3(3): 120-124, pl. XVI.

Flannery, Timothy F. and Archer, Michael. (1985). Palorchestes Owen, 1874: Large and Small Palorchestids, pp. 234-239. In: Vickers-Rich, Patricia and van Tets, Gerard Frederick. (eds.). Kadimakara: Extinct Vertebrates of Australia. Lilydale, Victoria: Pioneer Design Studio. 284 pp.

Flannery, Timothy F. and Gott, B. (1984). The Spring Creek locality, southwestern Victoria, a late surviving megafaunal assemblage. Australian Zoologist 21(4): 385-422.

Fletcher, H. O. (1945). Palorchestes—Australia's extinct Giant Kangaroo. The Australian Museum Magazine 8(11): 361-365.

Glauert, L. G. (1926 "1925"). A list of Western Australian fossils. Supplement no.1. West. Aust. Geol. Surv. Bull. 88: 36-71.

Johnson, Chris N. (2006). Australia's Mammal Extinctions: A 50 000 Year History. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. x + 278 pp. [p. 19, pl. 5 (as azeal)]

Johnson, Chris N. and Prideaux, Gavin J. (2004). Extinctions of herbivorous mammals in the late Pleistocene of Australia in relation to their feeding ecology: no evidence for environmental change as cause of extinction. Australian Ecology 29: 553-557.

Lewis, D. (1986). The Dreamtime animals: A reply. Archaeology in Oceania 21(2):140-145. [possible depiction of Palorchestes in rock art]

Mackness, B. S. (2009). Reconstructing Palorchestes (Marsupialia: Palorchestidae) - from Giant Kangaroo to Marsupial 'Tapir'. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 130: 21-36.

Mahoney, J. A. and Ride, W. D. L. (1975). Index to the genera and species of fossil Mammalia described from Australia and New Guinea between 1838 and 1968. Western Australian Museum Special Publication 6: 1-250.

Molnar, R. E., and C. Kurz. (1997). The distribution of Pleistocene vertebrates on the eastern Darling Downs, based on the Queensland Museum collections. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 117: 107-134.

Murray, P. F. (1991). The Pleistocene megafauna of Australia, pp. 1071-1164. In: Vickers-Rich, P., Monaghan, J. M., Baird, R. F., and Rich, T. H. Vertebrate Palaeontology of Australiasia. Lilydale, Victoria: Pioneer Design Studio.

Murray, P. and G. Chaloupka, G. (1984). The Dreamtime animals: extinct megafauna in Arnhemland rock art. Archaeology in Oceania 19: 105-16. [possible depiction of Palorchestes in rock art]

Murray, P. F., and A. Goede. (1977). Pleistocene vertebrate remains from a cave near Montagu, N.W. Tasmania. Records of the Queen Victoria Museum 60: 1-30.

Owen, R. (1874). On the fossil mammals of Australia-Part IX family Macropodidae; Genera Macropus, Pachysiagon, Leptosaigon, Procoptodon and Palorchestes. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 164: 783-803.

Owen, Richard. (1876). On the Fossil Mammals of Australia. Part X. Family Macropodidae: Mandibular Dentition and Parts of the Skeleton of Palorchestes; Additional Evidences of Macropus Titan, Sthenurus, and Procoptodon. Royal Society of London 166: 197-226.

Pease, Eleanor and Price, Gilbert. (2021). What did the marsupial tapir eat? Reconstructing the palaeobiology of Palorchestes, a bizarre extinct giant from southeast Queensland, p. 59. In: Conference Programme & Abstract List for the 67th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Mammal Society Virtual, 28 September to 1 October, Perth, WA, 2021. [automatic download]

Pledge, Neville S. (1991). Occurrences of Palorchestes species (Marsupialia: Palorchestidae) in South Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum 25(2): 161-174.

Price, Gilbert J. and Hocknull, S. A. (2005). A small adult Palorchestes (Marsupialia, Palorchestidae) from the Pleistocene of the Darling Downs, southeast Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 51(1): 202.

Price, Gilbert J., Feng, Y.-x. and Zhao, J.x. (2009). Systematic U/Th dating of Australia’s most northerly Pleistocene megafauna: Palorchestes azael from Tea Tree Cave, northeastern Queensland. In. Travouillon, K.J., Worthy, T.H., Hand, S.J., and Creaser, P. (Eds.) Conference on Australasian Vertebrate Evolution, Palaeontology and Systematics 2009. Geological Society of Australia, Abstracts 93: 78.

Price, Gilbert J. et al. (2011). Dating megafaunal extinction on the Pleistocene Darling Downs, eastern Australia: The promise and pitfalls of dating as a test of extinction hypotheses. Quat. Sci. Rev. 30(7-8): 899-914.

Prideaux, G. J., R. G. Roberts, D. Megirian, K. E. Westaway, J. C. Hellstrom, and J. M. Olley. (2007). Mammalian responses to Pleistocene climate change in southeastern Australia. Geology 35: 33-36.

Reed, Elizabeth H. and Bourne, Steven J. (2000). Pleistocene fossil vertebrate sites of the south east region of South Australia. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 124(2): 61-90.

Reed, Elizabeth H. and Bourne, Steven J. (2009). Pleistocene Fossil Vertebrate Sites of the South East Region of South Australia II. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 133(1): 30-40.

Richards, Hazel L. et al. (2022). Inferring the palaeobiology of palorchestid marsupials through analysis of mammalian humeral and femoral shape. Journal of Mammalian Evolution.

Richards, Hazel L., Wells RT, Evans AR, Fitzgerald EMG, Adams JW (2019) The extraordinary osteology and functional morphology of the limbs in Palorchestidae, a family of strange extinct marsupial giants. PLoS ONE 14(9): e0221824.

Roberts, Richard G, Flannery, Timothy F., Ayliffe, Linda, Yoshida, Hiroyuki, Olley, Jon M., Prideaux, Gavin J., Laslett, Geoff M., Baynes, Alexander, Smith, M. A., Jones, Rhys I. and Smith, Barton L. (2001). New ages for the last Australian megafauna: Continent-wide extinction about 46,000 years ago. Science 292(5523): 1888-1892.

Shean, D. A. and Hellstrom, J. (2005). A Comparative Anatomy of Palorchestes azael (Marsupialia: Diprotodontoidea: Palorchestidae) from the Buchan Caves Region, Northeast Victoria. Geological Society of Australia Abstracts 80: 31.

Smith F.A., Lyons S.K., Ernest S.K.M., Jones K.E., Kaufman D.M., Dayan T., Marquet P.A., Brown J.H., Haskell J.P. 2003 Body mass of late Quaternary mammals. Ecology 84(12): 3403-3403.

Taçon, Paul S. C. and Webb, Steve. (2017). Art and megafauna in the Top End of the Northern Territory, Australia: Illusion or reality?, pp. 145-161. In: David, Bruno et al. (eds.). Terra Australis 47. Acton, A.C.T.: ANU Press. xxvi + 499 pp.

Turney, Chris S. M., Flannery, Timothy F., Roberts, Richard G., Reid, Craig, Fifield, L. Keith, Higham, Tom F. G., Jacobs, Zenobia, Kemp, Noel, Colhoun, Eric A., Kalin, Robert M. and Ogle, Neil. (2008). Late-surviving megafauna in Tasmania, Australia, implicate human involvement in their extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 105(34): 12150-12153.

Wells, Rod T., Moriarty, K. and Williams, D. L. G. (1984). The fossil vertebrate deposits of Victoria Fossil Cave Naracoorte: an introduction to the geology and fauna. The Australian Zoologist 21(4): 305-333.

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Woods, J.T. (1960). The extinct marsupial genus Palorchestes Owen. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 13: 177–93.


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