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Massive extinct Australian kangaroo spent half its life in bushes

Large extinct Australian kangaroo spent half its life in trees


A hand of the traditional tree-climbing kangaroo

Natalie Warburton

A big, extinct kangaroo that lived 40,000 years in the past spent half its time dwelling in bushes – a comparatively uncommon adaptation for a heavy marsupial.

In 2002, Natalie Warburton at Murdoch College in Perth and Gavin Prideaux at Flinders College in Adelaide, each in Australia, excavated the stays of two kangaroos, a female and male, on the Thylacoleo caves of Nullarbor Plain, in south-western Australia.

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The kangaroos belong to a species that went extinct about 40,000 years in the past – certainly one of many large-bodied animals that had been worn out on the time.

This species of kangaroo was first described in 1989 however, on the time, skulls and enamel had been the one fossils accessible for research. The stays had been used to call the species: Wallabia kitcheneri.

Warburton and Prideaux excavated two almost full skeletons. They’ve now studied them to realize a greater understanding of how the kangaroo lived and moved round.

“These fossils have unusually lengthy fingers and toes with lengthy, curved claws, compared to different kangaroos and wallabies,” says Warburton.

From options of the bones, the researchers may additionally decide that the kangaroos had highly effective arm muscle groups to boost and maintain up their physique weight, and an extended, extra cellular neck than different kangaroos.

“[The neck] can be helpful for reaching out the pinnacle in several instructions for looking on leaves,” says Warburton.

The researchers suspect the kangaroo was semi-arboreal, which means it spent half of its time on land and half within the bushes. A handful of small-bodied kangaroo species alive right now are additionally tailored for all times in bushes, however people of the traditional species could have weighed not less than 50 kilograms, a lot heavier than trendy tree-dwelling kangaroos.

“When climbing, [the extinct kangaroo] moved one thing like a cross between a koala and a really large-bodied primate, not swinging below branches although, however with a giant heavy tail and head like a kangaroo,” says Warburton.

“These specimens come from an space that’s now naked of bushes, so it tells us that the habitat and setting had been as soon as actually totally different to what they’re now,” she says.

Due to the brand new findings that it was partly tree-dwelling, the 2 researchers have renamed the species Congruus kitcheneri as a result of the anatomy is in contrast to that of any recognized species of Wallabia.

Tim Flannery on the College of Melbourne, who led the group that described the species in 1989, welcomes this transformation. “I little thought after I described the dental stays of Wallabia kitcheneri that its post-cranial skeleton can be so anomalous,” he says.

Journal reference: Royal Society Open Science, DOI: 10.1098/rsos.202216

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