Washington - A fox-sized marsupial predator that roamed Australia from about 23 to 12 million years ago had plenty of bite to go along with its bark.
But while it was certainly fierce, it was no Tasmanian devil, Australia's famously ferocious bantamweight brute.
Those were the findings reported on Wednesday by scientists who essentially brought the extinct mammal back to life in the virtual world to study its bite force and other qualities in comparison to other marsupial meat-eaters.
They used 3D computer software to reconstruct its skull - patterned after a nicely preserved fossil - and performed biomechanical analysis to see whether it was a champion chomper.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, assessed the biting and killing capabilities of a marsupial called Nimbacinus dicksoni that lived in northern Australia during the Miocene Epoch, a span of time populated by a wondrous array of mammals and other animals.
Nimbacinus dicksoni proved to be quite formidable and was probably able to hunt prey bigger than itself, the study found.
“It has the teeth of a true marsupial carnivore, with well-developed vertical slicing blades for cutting through meat and sinew,” said Stephen Wroe, a zoologist and paleontologist at Australia's University of New England and one of the researchers. “It likely preyed upon small to medium-sized birds, frogs, lizards and snakes, as well as a wide range of marsupials.”
But it fell short of the Tasmanian devil's chomping power.