The Procoptodon is a genus of extinct mammals of which a large number of species have been found. It is a spectacular land mammal that has already become extinct due to natural causes. This magnificent prehistoric animal inhabited our planet a few thousand years ago, they are much more recent than our friends the dinosaurs.
These prehistoric animals inhabited during what we know as the Cenozoic. Within the Cenozoic there are several periods to further specify the time scale to which mention is made and in this case, it would have belonged to the Quaternary period.
The main characteristic of the Procoptodon is the enormous size it had. If they were to be compared with a contemporary animal, it would undoubtedly be with kangaroos. The Procoptodon would have looked similar to today’s kangaroos with the difference that they were much larger. Not for nothing is it considered the largest kangaroo that ever existed.
Basic information about the Procoptodon
The Procoptodon was certainly a pretty big animal. However, it should be stressed that although it is written on our page that it is mostly about dinosaurs, this genus is not one. We are talking about a prehistoric mammal that existed a few thousand years ago in the past.
- How long is it? – Approximately 3 meters from the head to the end of the tail.
- How tall is it? – The height was about 2 and a half meters.
- What is its weight? – He weighed approximately 232 kilograms.
- When did he live? – He inhabited our planet during the Pleistocene.
- What is his family? – He belongs to the family of the macropods.
The taxonomy of the Procoptodon
Kingdom Animalia > Filo Chordata > Class Mammalia > Infraclass Marsupiala > Order Diprotodontia > Family Macropodidae > Subfamily Sthenurinae > Genus Procoptodon
Within the genus procoptodon we can find a great variety of species. However, we should not take it as definitive, because at any time they can find a new species or discard any. That is why we will try to keep this section completely updated in case of possible future changes.
- P. browneorum
- P. cegsai
- P. gilli
- P. goliah
- P. maddocki
- P. mccoyi
- P. oreas
- P. otuel
- P. pusio
- P. rapha
- P. texanensis
- P. Williamsi
The Family: Macropods
Before delving deeper into the Procoptodon it is advisable to take a look at the family it belongs to. This genus is classified within the family of macropods because it adopts their characteristics. To find out more about this genus, let us first look at the characteristics and features of the macropods.
This family of mammals includes several genera of marsupials. It is generally better known colloquially as the kangaroo family, but it is not only that. This family also includes the wallabies, pademelons and similar variants. Currently the area where they predominate is Australia, although they are fewer and fewer and are at risk of extinction.
Modern macropods are characterised by their ability to boil, although some omnivorous kangaroo species existed in prehistoric times. These modern specimens are specialized with teeth capable of pulling up and crushing fibrous plants such as grasses and sedges.
On the front of their jaws we can find sharp teeth placed in a row. What is special about their jaws is that they have an empty gap in their teeth between this straight line of sharp teeth and the molars.
The molar teeth of this family are generally large and in most cases have four molar teeth. They tend to wear out a lot, even to such an extent that they become totally unusable and starve to death because of it.
The sizes of the different macropods are very diverse, although most of them have long and large hind legs and large muscles that allow them to propel themselves to jump. It has five toes, the fourth being the largest and most muscular. As for the fifth toe, it is not as muscular as the fourth but it does not fall far behind, while the second toe and the third toe are linked.
The heads of those belonging to this family are relatively small compared to the enormous ears they have. The only ones who don’t have big ears are tree kangaroos, since they move between branches and in their evolutionary process the fact of having big ears would not have allowed them so much mobility between branches.
The anatomy of its hind legs makes it a fast animal. Macropods are really fast animals and they can travel long distances in a very short time. Going back to the famous jump of the kangaroos and the wallabies, they have a really interesting fact.
It is obvious that their muscular hind legs are the ones that allow the jump, but it is partly thanks to the fact that they have the peculiar characteristic of being able to store energy of elastic deformation in their tendons. That is why, contrary to what many people think, jumping is largely due to the capacity that their tendons and joints have to withstand high tension rather than the fact of having muscular legs.
Another interesting fact is that your jump is synchronized with your breathing. As your feet come off the ground to jump, your lungs release air. When they are about to land, the lungs fill up with oxygen again.
Studies suggest that jumping doesn’t really require much effort for kangaroos because of the momentum they have from running.
Macropods in turn are very resilient animals. They’re able to survive even in the most adverse conditions. They can survive on low energy feeds and can travel long distances very quickly without consuming much energy.
In other words, even without a good diet they would have been able to escape from their predators or travel long distances to water holes or places where there is fresh food. This undoubtedly favours them and helped them to survive in a continent with low soil fertility.
With regard to their reproduction, the average duration of this is one month. The gestation times do not vary much between the different species, being a little longer for the longer species.
However, some very small 1 gram babies are born and must wait in the famous bag that the mother has. They stay in the mother’s pouch for about five to eleven months until they feel ready to come out.
Why were they called macropods?
This has an easy explanation if we base it on Greek. The word “macropods” has its origin in this language and translated into our language it means “big foot”.
Description of the Procoptodon
We have already seen all the necessary details regarding the family of macropods. It should be noted that this genus adopts the characteristics of its family, which is why it is classified within it.
Within the family there are many genus of animals that obviously have certain differences between them. Therefore, in order to differentiate this genus from the others, we will now look at the characteristics and unique features of the Procoptodon.
The physiology of the procoptodon would most likely not have been very different from that of a modern-day kangaroo. The only notable difference with today’s kangaroos is the large size that the species in this genus had. To be more specific, species in this genus were up to three times the size of today’s largest kangaroo.
The Procoptodon lived with today’s kangaroo species and are also called short-sided kangaroos. In addition to this, their faces were flat and their eyes were directed towards the front.
With respect to their hind legs, they would have one single toe with a large claw as opposed to today’s kangaroos which have five toes. However, on the front legs it also had claws, although in this case it had two large claws for each leg.
Previously we have commented that macropods in general are capable of jumping and moving at great speeds. In the specific case of the Procoptodon goliah it would not have been able to move at high speeds and much less jump due to its great weight.
Its hips were wide and its ankles were able to resist torsion, indicating that it would have been able to stand on one leg. In addition, as a result of her wide hips she had large buttocks, like most species. These characteristics gave him a peculiar way of walking that was very similar to that of hominids.
When did the Procoptodon live?
So far we have commented on the physical aspect of this genus and have also documented its family of macro-pondids. We have pointed out their basic characteristics and unfolded their taxonomy. Now that we know all that, we will now look at when this spectacular giant kangaroo lived.
It was not really that long ago that these animals said goodbye to our planet, especially if we take as a reference the antiquity of the dinosaurs. Moreover, they are recent enough that we can still see on the planet several species with which they have a close relationship as the Australian kangaroo.
If we really want to see a genus of procoptodon we have to go back a few thousand years. This genus inhabited during the Pleistocene Quaternary Cenozoic. The Pleistocene Period is a time span of 2.6 million years and ended about 12,000 years ago approximately. These giant kangaroos cohabited with the first human beings.
Where did the Procoptodon live?
Now that we know a little more about the time period this genus lived in, let’s talk about the environment it inhabited. According to the remains found, the Procoptodon would have inhabited the area where South Australia and New Wales are now located.
If we talk about the natural habitat of this genus, it was located in areas where there were large areas of trees. It also had large sand dunes that were created by the effect of the wind.
The area around Lake Menindee (west of New Wales) had a wetter and cooler climate. The surroundings of this area were a mixture of forests, sclerophyll forests, plains and savannahs. Large sand dunes had also formed on the edges of the Menindee.
Why did the Procoptodon become extinct?
It is not known for sure when these animals really became extinct. Even so, it is known that they were still alive at least 50 000 years ago and that it is very likely that they would have survived until about 18 000 years ago. With regard to the causes of extinction, there are several factors that have had a greater or lesser influence.
The first cause could have been human hunting. According to the data available, the arrival of humans in Australia coincides with the disappearance of the genus. Even so, there is no fossil evidence that contrasts the fact that humans had consumed this animal.
The second possible cause lies in climate change. Even so, it is suspected that the first option could be more accurate because in the time frame of its extinction, the climate was relatively stable.
What did the Procoptodon feed on?
The Procoptodon kangaroos had a very varied diet although they mainly specialised in feeding on leaves from trees and shrubs. The skull of this genus is really robust although its face itself was small, this suggests that it had masseter muscles that they used to crush food.
According to the remains found of a Procoptodon goliah, it has been deduced that it was on a sailing diet. It had large premolars, dental crowns and a large massive bony jaw were found in the fossil remains.
This suggests that the Procoptodon goliah could have fed on large amounts of leafy forage. Its diet would have consisted of photosynthetic C4-type plants, such as grasses.